The Cossacks

Friday, May 1, 2020

Do you think the Cossacks made a conscious
Choice to circumscribe their culture’s consumption
Of couscous, or was it just that couscous originated
as a Maghrebi dish of small steamed balls
of crushed durum wheat semolina traditionally served
with stew spooned on top, and Maghreb
Was-slash-is two seas away—3100 kilometers
As the crow claws its way through clouds.
Or was it that proto-Ukranians couldn’t stand
Stew per se? Hint: they could but liked it cold.
Was it some secret chefs-only coup that overthrew
Couscous’s coulda-been conspicuous future
In the southern motherland peopled only by the pale,
Those who tear their black bread in twain
And slosh it down with room temperature водка
Bite by black bite, in some back room of a bad
Seaside bar in Ochakiv or Zaliznyi, giving nary
A thought to the peasant mash then popular
In Algiers or Jijel, in fact all across the top
Of hotly contested Africa, beautiful Africa, blacker
Than medieval Cossacks could possible conceive.
Oh they’d heard tales; of that we have no doubt.
But had they tried the couscous? We do not know.

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