Hair of Crocus

by Cornelia Rohde

Lay a saffron stigma on your tongue.
Watch it bleed deep golden, the glow of Cleopatra’s
skin after diffusing pinches of it in her love-bath.
At Nero’s orgiastic bashes, cakes lewdly squirted
bursts of yellow when squeezed by bawdy guests,

and Pliny the Elder suggested ‘hair of crocus’
in wine to cure a hangover. It is a paradox,
that a thin red thread can provoke snorts
of raunchy laughter, yet too much of it
make the liver shrivel, or cause a costly Saffron War.

I want to drink it as pure, radiant ruby tea,
while I look out over a mantle of purple blooms
at Persian fields unfolding in the morning sun.
I will have reveries of amorous Krishna in his golden dhoti,
stealing robes of gopis while they bathe, and conjure up his home,

where I saw a blazing sea of sunflowers turn their faces
to the light, and meadows of shining marigolds
raised for offerings to the gods.
In that land I will be gifted saffron rice again,
and journey with its blessing.

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