The Gift of Saffron

A poem about saffron, a renowned seasoning and medicinal herb cultivated near Mashhad, Iran, and elsewhere. It takes those with dexterous fingers and patient dispositions to hand-harvest the crimson stamen ‘threads.’ Often, therefore, it is women chosen to harvest the coveted crimson threads, the essence of which produces a calming effect on a person, enriches flavor, and soothes the skin. Worth thousands of dollars per kilo, it is the world’s costliest spice.

On Persian plains the purple carpet blooms
No thanks to desert winds harassing ‘round
But to the Maker who from hidden rooms
Finds scarlet store to sprinkle on the ground

We restless souls in clay and water live
Yet can’t but covet dust grasped by the hand
In imitation of our mother Eve
Whose slender limb partook the fruit He banned

How fitting, then, that by her daughters’ grace
The saffron’s secrets slowly are disclosed
As strand by strand extracted they erase
The cares our anxious musings interposed

And whisper of the time when cool of day
Brought fellowship beneath the evening star
Where every tree was ours except a stay
On one dark bough that led from snake to scars

And so until that eon when the curse
No longer stokes the fever of our fears
We bless your touch, veiled oriental nurse,
Upon our tea leaves, banquets, tongues, and tears

© Kurt Mähler
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