What could I wring from salt, what sweetness, say,

from the anchovies I was forced to stomach as a child

even after I refused. You eat what’s on your plate

whether you want to or not. Say we eat what we refuse.

Say I go to Rome. You can go there, Rome, you can go

to choke like I did. So worried about my son swallowing

a chicken bone I stifled on a sharp bit that wedged

in my throat like a nail. The doctor said gargle

with salt water to loosen the speck. Then he jammed

a tool inside my mouth to seek a thing already gone.

It will feel like it’s still there but really, it’s just a feeling;

there’s nothing there. Say you apply this to other parts,

like to my father, and his body, all that business

he did with women other than my mother, bodies

I saw lilt and fall into his arms like the one naked

as battle and ready for him to enter her like a cannon

when bitch rang from my throat. He pushed the word

back in my mouth with soap. I studied his nakedness

in the bathroom mirror, fist lodged in me like a knot,

foam dripping down my cheeks and into the sink.

Say a word like bitch and you’ll be cleaned out. So.

Say bitch. No. Say idiot sorrow. Say it like

I said it again and again for my mother who wanted

to know more. Say I lied about how much I saw

and gave her what I could invent: strands of hair,

torn panty hose, pools of cum that smelled like

salt. Say I lied because it held her attention on me.

In time bitch stuck in my throat like a bone. Stayed

like salt on my tongue. I used to think it tasted

different in every country. In Switzerland salt

tasted thin, almost sweet. In Germany; like cake.

In the Czech Republic, like coal; in Italy, rugged

and in France, lavender. Now a man writes, I see you

as a wild woman who likes being alone. I won’t tell him

of all the places I’ve run, the clinging I’ve done

to the living salty ones I should add here with a feature

or two: the one with a body like a broken stamen,

eyes the color of branches at twilight—or the man

who never says anything let alone love even after

I pronounced it. Love is speaking too much salt.

Is doing enough wrong so you can pretend to get it

right. Now I hear speech goes, taste fades, and smell

stays primary. I have traveled far like the lesser parrots

that flock cedar trees in Rome’s Borghese park. Their

blue eyes and bionic green tails punish the sky with dolor.

I stand beneath them; gargle briny sounds back and forth

while deep inside a room somewhere else in Rome

my son wakes from a dream, asks if the bone is still

in my throat. When I say no he wonders if swordfish

swim in oceans or lakes; if there is such a thing as

sword sharks that saw through water, and how, if thirsty,

do they drink salt. Go back to dreaming, I say, but he won’t

until I promise to relinquish the answers. Okay, I will,

I tell him: tomorrow I’ll explain everything: and we’ll

cook together, we’ll invent something new: a wild,

unbelievable taste, and before I finish he adds:

promise we make it with nothing but water and salt.

Copyright © 1999 – 2019 Juked