The Pepper Jar by Luisa M. Giulianetti

Luisa M. Giulianetti is the 3rd place winner of Streetlight’s 2021 Poetry Contest

The Pepper Jar

………………….……….for Dad

Guided by the moon, you germinate
seeds. Transplanting infant plants

well after the final frost. Fostering
them. Withhold water before the harvest

to deepen their flavor, reaping a basket
of red fruit adorned with green hats.

Summer ’09: your last labor
of horticultural love.

You lay the nightshades to dry
under the August sun, discarding

the soft bodies. Tending
never ends with the harvest.

Two weeks later, their plump, glossy skin
withered as a crone’s. Drying, you explain,

animates heat and sweetness. Gloved
and masked, you remove their stems,

coarsely grind their bodies, fill glass half
pints with flakes that fire sauces and stews.

You warn me not to get too close. I pay
with eyes that burn red and run all night.

This evening, I flavor my puttanesca
with a pinch of your red magic, salted

with my tears. Each subtraction multiplies
the loss. You’ve been gone five years.

I ration what remains, fooling
myself that I’ll never hit bottom.

a single red pepper next to sunlit leaves
Indoor Pepper by Alan Levine. CC license.

Luisa M. Giulianetti
Luisa M. Giulianetti is a Bay Area based writer. She is published in Brilliant Corners, CALYX, Feile-Festa, HerStry, Italian Americana, Mandala Journal, Ploughshares, and Tule Review. She received a Lili Fabilli and Eric Hoffer Essay Prize. She is currently completing a manuscript that explores “home” as a physical and cultural space and as a contested condition of being. When she’s not teaching and coordinating programs for transfer students at UC Berkeley, Luisa loves to cook, share extended meals with loved ones, and hike.

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