My favorite poems during quarantine have come in the form of cocktail recipes. More often than not, in the evenings, poet Natalie Diaz shares on Twitter a telegraphic description of an original cocktail she’s made, along with a name for it and a few images. “Medicine to meet the moment,” reads a Tweet from August 26. “In Mojave medicine is mat ichaav. It heals the land and the body. Here’s a penicillin with the best I’ve got out here. Homemade ginger syrup. Last lemon in the house. Wishing good dreams, the dreams there for us when we wake, may we walk into them.” Below is a series of four pictures: a squat glass jar, embossed with cherries and grapes as if meant for canning, garnished with a generous round of fresh ginger, sits on an important-looking dark wooden table, whorled with natural grain. A well-stocked bar is blurrily visible in the background. In the next image, the jar of frothing drink sits in front of three bottles of different varieties of single malt scotch, as if they’re the prestigious body guards for this small but stately drink. In the next image the jar has moved outside, under a twilight sky striped with faint power lines, an almost full moon rising in the background.
Medicine to meet the moment. In Mojave medicine is mat ichaav. It heals the land and the body. Here’s a penicillin with the best I’ve got out here. Homemade ginger syrup. Last lemon in the house. Wishing good dreams, the dreams there for us when we wake, may we walk into them. pic.twitter.com/ZBoQNc5kp9
— Natalie Diaz (@NatalieGDiaz) August 27, 2020
These images and text are, like the medicinally named cocktail, “medicine to meet the moment.” What is this moment? On August 26, 2020, some of the largest wildfires ever recorded raged in northern California. Hurricane Laura was set to make landfall in Louisiana with what the National Hurricane Center was calling an “unsurvivable storm surge.” Meanwhile, a 17-year old white militia member armed with a long gun shot and killed two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during an action of mass grief and outrage over the unending police murders of Black people. Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic carries on into it’s sixth month, the Republican National Convention carries on in its speakers’ unabashed denial of the reality of American racism. Meanwhile, Diaz graces our feeds with a light touch of gentleness and care.
August 23: “romero en el mar: this whiskey has a salt burn that I like feeling burn its way out of a sour.” This time, the drink is in a coupe glass, dotted with orange bitters, garnished with a small sprig of rosemary (romero). If this cocktail in a coup glass is “el mar” (the sea) that the rosemary finds itself in, it is a burning sea, a frothing sea, a sea of salt and sourness.
Some of the recipes are more precise, though no less evocative: “‘Amay havasuuk/ Green sky: 2 oz Fortaleza tequila, .5 oz hugo de cilantro y Silencio mezcal, 1.5 fresh grapefruit, teaspoon ancho reyes, shaken on ice, cilantro garnish.” In an interview, Diaz talks about the Mojave word havasuu: “In Mojave, our word for green is also our word for blue. Havasuu. To say “Havasuuk” can mean “it is green,” or it can mean “a greening.” Green is a verb. It can happen. It does happen. It is life.” Perhaps this drink, then, is a greening—it is, like the sky, happening. Precision, here, in half ounces and teaspoons, is the traveling companion of tenderness, of sky. A greening sky might suggest a storm, something ominous, even a fire, but a greening also suggests living, growing, thriving. Here, in Mojave—the place and the language—life, like a garnish of cilantro, is still living.
All photos by Natalie Diaz.