Through the kitchen window I marvel at the hydrangea,
festooned with red flames, all pointing downward,
its in-your-face response to the coming cold,
while I wash my hands in lukewarm water
and let the radio’s babble, a stream of responses
to the current immigration twitter storm,
rush past me. After all, I am
a legal resident. I focus on a new head,
a firm, green cabbage, glistening on the counter, ready
the mandolin, the salt, and the wooden stomper,
rinse the crock of brown earthenware, a small but sturdy incarnation
of the tall one which once reached up to my 9-year-old waist.
Then, I used to whistle loudly every time I descended into the basement.
At the bottom, out of reach of sparse rays
able to fall through the door (always left open),
I turned to the right. In almost complete darkness
I entered the cellar, which harbored
jars of jam, canned cherries, and green beans,
barely visible in the gray light, thick dust
obscuring the small window, high up below the ceiling
as if in a prisoner’s cell. The dark shape
of the crock loomed before me, its open mouth
plugged with a rock, below it an oaken board,
the two of them holding down the fermented cabbage.
I placed the two gate-keepers on a nearby table, rolled up a linen cloth,
the last barrier between the kraut and open air,
pushed the top layer of scum to the sides,
scooped enough of the good stuff from the center
into my dish, then, in reverse order,
re-covered everything as fast as possible, to finally,
prize in hand, run up the stairs, as if I had to escape
from—I don’t know what exactly I feared
down there, where I had nothing to fear—
but now, as I start to ferment again,
this fear resurfaces, feeds on itself, grows
into a full-blown panic attack at the mere thought
of being sent back to my home country,
a safe and civil place—but not my home,
not my home anymore,
not for a long, long time.
Brigitte Goetze lives in Western Oregon. A retired biologist and goat farmer, she now divides her time between writing and fiber work. She finds inspiration for both endeavors in nature as well as in stories and patterns handed down from generation to generation. Yet, she always spins her own yarns. Links to her most recent publications can be found at: brigittegoetzewriter.com.