Emily Ransdell


Vorukh by Azam Atakhanov

Boiled from brine or dug, once carried
by camels across the Sahara,
once carted by slaves on the road to Rome.
Salt for barter.
For cedar from Phoenicians, for glass
and the coveted purple dye.
Salted meat for wine.
Once traded for gold, weight for weight,
paid to sailors and soldiers at war.
When my father walked
death’s long furrows,
I sat keeping vigil by his bed.
I breathed the salt of his effort,
touched the film on his pillow and skin.
Jesus said, “You are the salt
of the earth,” and praise was born.
What could be more essential?
It livens the soup and brightens
the bread. Passed hand to hand
around the table, harvest
of sorrow and labor,
the taste of survival on our lips.


About the writer:
Emily Ransdell’s work has appeared in Poetry Northwest, Poet Lore, Sugar House Review, The Cortland Review and elsewhere. Ransdell has been a finalist for the Rattle Poetry Prize and the New Letters Prize in Poetry. A four-time Pushcart nominee, she divides her time between Camas, Washington, and the North Oregon Coast.

Image: Vorukh by Azam Atakhanov. Oil on canvas. 90 x 110. 2007. By permission. Azam Atakhanov is the O:JA&L Featured Artist for June 2019.