“An Ode to Icelandic Tap Water” & Other Poems by Sara Letourneau

An Ode to Icelandic Tap Water

I was told to drink you,
that you are “completely safe” and
“no other tap water on Earth tastes so good,”
and I cringed as if I had sipped rancid milk.
Where I come from, such water perfumes the skin
with trace metals during a shower,
and who knows what kind of slow death
it inflicts on one’s cells.

Regardless, I pour my first glass of you,
and you appear as water should,
clear and cool to the touch.
What had I expected?
Ale brewed by the sea giant Aegir?
Rain tapped from the heavens?
I honestly can’t say, and so
I bring you to my lips—

and the earth pulls me down
through layers of lava rock and andisols
into the natural springs, where you come from.
You don’t reek of iron, or taste of chlorine,
or leave flecks of residue on plastic containers
and liquid measuring cups,
or have the occasional misfortune
of carrying lead.

No. You smell of
sulfur, ozone, fresh-cut quartz.
You taste of basalt columns and cirrus clouds,
winter winds and spring cambium,
as if you tumbled out of a waterfall
and not from the faucet.
I drink you, and something ancient
seeps into my bloodstream
and cracks me open like a fissure
so I can listen to the earth, breathe in the glaciers,
and let the rust reds, the searing greens,
all the wildflower colors of this country kiss me.

Yes, my tongue is listening, and so am I.
Now that I’ve had a taste of you, I want to
bathe in you, imbibe you,
let you awaken me to everything
your sweet liquid mirror wants me to see.
I only hope that the next foreigner who meets you
does not waste or sully you, but rather
toasts to your clarity.

 

Peach Pie Ice Cream Haibun

It’s two days after Thanksgiving, and my tongue salivates for something sweet: not a warmed piece of leftover apple or pumpkin pie dolloped with whipped cream, not the chocolate cookies with a swirl of melted Andes mint candy on top, but your peach pie ice cream. I only have to reach into the freezer and tug off the container’s cold purple lid to find this cache. My hands move independent from the rest of my body, grasping the ice cream scoop and gathering a meal’s worth of frozen pale orange freckled with brown graham cracker crust. Spoonful after spoonful come bursts of summer sunshine and love at its ripest. Peaches and cream cheese, sweetness and tang, velvet and cool and complete with the soft crumble of crust and the sparkle of cinnamon. And in the thick of this indulgence, I imagine you in your kitchen, pouring the chilled fruit-and-liquid mixture into the ice cream maker. I wasn’t there the day you made this batch, but I had helped with the previous failure that used your old recipe and curdled on the stove, and we couldn’t stop sampling the cut peaches macerating in sugar and their own juices. And I still remember my first lick of this success after it had set, how you scooped and filled a ramekin for me, how I moaned in that delighted, childlike way as its flavors bloomed in my mouth, how you smiled and kissed my nose and then my lips, and I know now

the aftertaste and
the nostalgia are not what
I will savor most

 

Self-Portrait as a Drop of Frankincense Oil

At first glance, I look like a pool of water
in the palm of your hand. I don’t smell like water,
of course, but that’s your first thought nonetheless.
After all, I am liquid, pale gold and so lightweight
that you barely feel me against your skin.
And no, I am not incensed that you keep staring.
Your eyes will eventually close, and then it will be
my turn to watch you as your nostrils contract and expand
and to feel the pull of your breath against my fluid self.
And then you, by inhaling me, will see me anew—
not as a drop of oil, but as a garden
where the earth is sun-warmed and dew-kissed,
where pine and cinnamon trees grow on one side
and spindles of rosemary on the other,
where bonfires are burning nearby
and a bottle of balsamic vinegar is opened—
perhaps you’ll catch a glimpse of me in resin form,
when I resemble rock sugar but can be chewed like gum
or burned to purify the air with my heady sharpness—
or even one from my wild child days,
when bark from the boswellia tree was scraped off
and my siblings and I rushed to the surface of our mother’s skin,
flowing until we formed stalactites, sticky, redolent,
unaware that we’d soon be harvested.
And maybe then you’ll remember
I am not just fragrance for your wrists
or a drop of calm you rub into your temples
or the soles of your feet—I am a descendent
of one of the three precious gifts that the three wise men
presented to Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus.
And while I cannot tell you
whether I can truly wake up your first chakra,
relieve you of stress, or strengthen your immune system,
I’ll always tell you this much:
Sometimes looking means seeing with more
than just your eyes.

 

—About the Author—

Sara Letourneau is a poet, freelance book editor, and writing coach who lives in the Greater Boston Area (Massachusetts, USA). Her poems are forthcoming in or have appeared in ConstellationsAmethyst ReviewSoul-Lit, Mass Poetry’s Poem of the MomentBoston Small Press and Poetry SceneGolden Walkman Magazine, and The Aurorean, among others. You can learn more about working with Sara at https://heartofthestoryeditorial.com/ and read more of her poetry at https://saraletourneauwriter.com.