Poetry / March 2015 (Issue 27)

Flower Pepper

by Ting Wei Tai

Both yin and yang, both he and she,
both fragrant and pungent, both red and black,
the pink walls of a bedroom
shamed into blue, learning to take pride
in a perverse hue, numbness that hurts, confident
and coy. The tattle-tale, the dead giveaway:
shibboleth. George’s unexpected gun
firing an umbrella of laughs and fun,
the razor blade slug in the ganache,
the stubborn suction surprise that clings like a cup,
devilishly snug on the back of your tongue.
Refusing to come clean, this flower pepper winks.

It cannot be washed down with tea. You need the blunt end
of the toothpick, or a finger.
           You need readiness
           to gag yourself.
Flower pepper grows wild.

A young child’s uneven milk teeth
bite into virgin spice. He rushes to the kitchen
to sing his discovery. My tongue is dancing,
my tongue is dancing! Grandma’s hand
reaches down from the stove, ruffles his hair,
anoints him and blesses with the balm of onions
and twice cooked pork.

It is my lost tongue
that I try to steal back and pry
loose from all the passers-by
back in the city of dust
that one day, I too may bloom
into black cloven hemispheres
splitting my husks to tingle your lips.
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