As compact and canny as a bomb, the salt shaker made of glass takes its
rightful place at table. You could slip it in your pocket and feel
dangerous, let it settle beside a book of matches from the Baudelaire
Hotel. When it’s by your plate in the early morning it makes you think
of snow settling inside a globe, of the half light of grainy
photographs, of stars ground with a pestle. It makes you think of pure
idea. It’s a perfect paradox of energy and calmness, of modesty and
conceit. It’s what you’d place beside a candle at an altar. Though
humourless, it makes you question why you always trust there’s salt
inside it. The small holes on top are what you’d punch in a container
that holds an animal, so it could breathe.
The spice inside the pepper shaker wasn’t mined in caverns where men die
daily, or dragged from the wild waters of the sea. The berries from
trees lined up in rows on some plantation, dried and ground, make this
shaker seem less prone to speculation or surprise. Still, what we see
through the glass could be crushed cinders from a railroad track or
gritty seeds the shadows of dead lilacs scatter in the wind. The
shaker’s constant presence at the table shows the tongue’s unworldly
desire to become a martyr, to translate a flame. It’s an hourglass
without a waist, measuring, with grains of midnight, the little time we
have left to eat.
Lorna Crozier’s latest book is Small Beneath the Sky, A Prairie Memoir. A Distinguished Professor at the University of Victoria, she is the recipient of several awards for poetry, including the Governor General’s.