Tuesday, April 23, 2024

A Little Tisane at Bedtime

Proto-weeds from the Last Glacial Maximum—
Including wild barley—at Ohalo II,
Already in small-scale cultivated plots,

Perhaps—certainly in dense concentrations
Around grinding stones at the site, but it takes
More than half of all the years from then to now

To get to Jarmo farmers in the foothills
Of the Zagros and find primitive barley
Varieties among emmer and einkorn

Wheat and the bones of domesticated goats,
Sheep, and dogs, along with sickles and pottery.
The nonshattering mutations of barley,

Reducing the brittleness of hairy spikes—
Latin hordeum, horrere, to bristle—
Rendering barley grass helpless without us,

Then spent the next few thousand years being spread
In combination with various other domesticates
Through increasingly agricultural worlds—

Useful for beers and whiskeys, of course. Also,
Here and there, barley-water drinks, kykeon,
Agua de cebada, or jau ka sattu,

Robinson’s barley water at Wimbledon,
Which brings us to barley-water teas themselves—
As pearl, that is, peeled, barley—the origin

Etymologically, of herbal teas,
From the Ancient Greek ptisánē, peeled barley,
All these worlds held in this tisane you sip now.

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