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.
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