My mother made figs in wine—
poached with cloves, sometimes a few peppercorns.
Black figs, from our tree.
And the wine was red, the pepper left a taste of smoke in the syrup.
I used to feel I was in another country.

Before that, there’d be chicken.
In autumn, sometimes filled with wild mushrooms.
There wasn’t always time for that.
And the weather had to be right, just after the rain.
Sometimes it was just chicken, with a lemon inside.

She’d open the wine. Nothing special—
something she got from the neighbors.
I miss that wine—what I buy now doesn’t taste as good.

I make these things for my husband,
but he doesn’t like them.
He wants his mother’s dishes, but I don’t make them well.
When I try, I get angry—

He’s trying to turn me into a person I never was.
He thinks it’s a simple thing—
you cut up a chicken, throw a few tomatoes into the pan.
Garlic, if there’s garlic.
An hour later, you’re in paradise.

He thinks it’s my job to learn, not his job
to teach me. What my mother cooked, I don’t need to learn.
My hands already knew, just from smelling the cloves
while I did my homework.
When it was my turn, I was right. I did know.
The first time I tasted them, my childhood came back.

When we were young, it was different.
My husband and I—we were in love. All we ever wanted
was to touch each other.

He comes home, he’s tired.
Everything is hard—making money is hard, watching your body change
is hard. You can take these problems when you’re young—
something’s difficult for a while, but you’re confident.
If it doesn’t work out, you’ll do something else.