Jessy Scarpone

A Simple Cinnamon Poem: On “The Sweetest Wood in the World”

Winter is here, which means colder temperatures and hot chocolate surround us in full force. In the spirit of GC’s Spring Poetry series, we’ll be publishing a series of creative pieces that celebrate the flavors, colors, holiday cliches, and overall symbolism of Winter. This educational poem tells the story of cinnamon (and the tree species from the genus Cinnamomum) in a narrative form suitable for children. Share this poem with Lil Sprouts’ and encourage them to think critically about where their holiday confections comes from. The history of cinnamon is ultimately a story about how botany intersects with globalization– a warming coming-of-age tale of the spice, scent, and flavor that has become synonymous with the winter season.

***

You come from a tree,
a scent ripe eight leagues to the sea,
on an island at India’s tip,
cinnamon,
your first, Hebrew name was qinnamon,
sweetest wood in the world.

Sailors from far off  Portugal
came looking for you, brown quill:
a soft young shoot in wet air,
cut to dry on the ground and curl,
coil and whirl,
sweetest wood in the world.

The ancients dreamed of a phoenix
nesting in fragrant sticks,
a bird so mighty she conquers death.
You scented her pyre,
and she rose from fire,
amid the sweetest wood in the world.

Cleopatra put you in her hair.
Romans fed you to pet bears.
You arrived with fanfare from afar,
the scent of  extravagance,
opulence,
sweetest wood in the world.

Columbus took off on his sail,
seeking you, despite scary tales
of giant snakes and  monster birds,
circling about to hide
the bark with a secret inside,
sweetest wood in the world.

You’re especially easy to blend—
the spice with difficult friends.
So nice to nutmeg and cloves,
and mild in the flurry
we nicknamed curry,
sweetest wood in the world.

Could you be the secret of Coke,
the fizz that took over the globe?
You’re a surprise on a slice of toast,
a twist in my Mom’s pot roast,
a tingle in sticks of red gum,
the core of a buttery bun,
a lilt in egg nog,
a light in a fog
when we’re ill–
cinnamon,
quinnamon,
sweetest wood in the world.

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