Squealing Garlic, Sacrificial Beans
Mid-sixties, north of Bangkok, midday heat.
I’m in third grade and trying to concentrate—
light-headed and lethargic, breathing in—
not understanding why we have to wait,
but waiting anyway. Mom’s the teacher,
so no fidgeting. And something tight
has settled in my chest—the sharpness of
a smell of strangeness, more than simple pangs
of hunger. Just next door, the drying skins
of freshly butchered hogs, tricycled in,
are being stacked by swearing, sweating men.
Mom hates the flies that batter on our screens.
Over the wooden transom, I can hear
the cleaver’s mighty judgment on the block,
and wonder if we’re having beef or pork.
In battle, with her metal spatula,
our energetic cook attacks the wok,
slashing through rising charcoal smoke and steam.
It seems I hear the garlic squeal in pain,
then leaping, hissing, sacrificial beans.
Outside and overhead, a hardened sun
has hammered tightly down a giant dome
that traps the town, the house, the wok and me.
Primordially, a single turgid fly
investigates my arm, and I “don’t have
the oomph,” as Mom would say, to wave or blow
this dirty little so-and-so away.
Then suddenly, the garlic and the beans
release some aromatic promises
that briefly overwhelm the tannery,
and it is time for lunch, and my release.
It’s taken fifty years to find the words—
but sounds and heat and pungency remain.
Dan Overgaard was born and raised in Thailand. He attended Westmont College, dropped out, moved to Seattle, became a transit operator, then managed transit technology projects and programs. He’s now retired, and his poems have appeared in The High Window, Canary Lit Mag, Stickman Review, Allegro Poetry, Triggerfish Critical Review and elsewhere. Read more at: danovergaard.com.