What the Alewife Knows
Beside the sea she lives, the woman of the vine, the maker of wine—The Epic of Gilgamesh

At the end of the world, if you can catch Siduri
on the right midnight (better make it full-moon
bright with a peerless regiment of stardazzle)
after she has closed the till, tucked up every loose
coin, sent each stray on his way, if you make her
laugh at least once, offer her an orchid for her hair.
If you promise her a song in exchange (pray she loves
your voice), she will slip out of her sandals, raise
an eyebrow, crook a finger, lead you out through
the back door, and split her hand-rolled with you.
Lifting her face into the saltspray of surfstrikingcliff,
she will bid you sip from her own gilded cask;
say nothing as she flexes her toes into wet sand,
stares into the dark face of sky, releases her hair
from its coils (but not her veil, not ever her veil),
and inhales rose smoke before confessing how long
her vines have roped their long selves around in the soil,
which of her fruit grew tart in the sun and which grew
tender in the shade of a broad leaf, how many rains fell
last season, and how to tell all of this from a single sip,
what vintage you serve kings and what you serve paupers
(it’s not what you think), and how here, at the end
of the world, it is just the same as the beginning:
the sum of a man (any man) may be measured
by the potency of his draft.

—Bianca Spriggs, Lexington, KY