Fruit Preserve, Isfahan 1978

Beh in Farsi means the best
It is the best of fruits
My landlady kept it on the window sill
in the sun to rot
It filled the house first with a pleasant presence
like a good guest / And then a stench like death
"Rotten before ripe"
Then it was ready to be cooked
The landlady, her mother-in-law and I
Three different generations generously cut fruit
enough to fill a big pot on a stove
specially lit in the middle of the winter kitchen
It was the winter of blood in Isfahan
And people were holding on to their traditions
Their simple pleasures
All day the pot boiled yellow with sugar and fruit
They kept me in charge and went visiting
Between my friend Behzad's kisses and my first stirring
The fruit turned red
It's natural he informed me
I did not know when to turn off the heat
But my young boy knew medlars
The windows fogged over
We could've been Zhivago and Lara in Siberia
I fell asleep over a book
Awaking to see my friend gone and my landlady
                    anxiously inspecting her compote
Next morning we filled small Ball jars
                    for gifting away the preserves
And I came away twenty years on with this crystallised sugar.

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