Beasley Hot Sauce
Illustration by Natalie K. Nelson

This poem first appeared in the winter 2015-16 issue of our Gravy quarterly. The author, Sandra Beasley, is the author of three poetry collections–Count the Waves; I Was the Jukebox; and Theories of Falling–as well as a memoir, Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life.

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Some Like It Hotter

by Sandra Beasley

The restaurant waits behind a steel door

through the back of a Fort Worth drycleaners.

The password is “Scoville.”

On tap? Blenheim Ginger Ale, Old #3.

Four shakers on the table—

pink, rainbow, cayenne, Sichuan.

The waiter brings a napkin for my lap.

The waiter brings a handkerchief for my eyes.

Soup of the day: cream of horseradish.

Salad greens: Osaka Purple mustard.

The music is always salsa. The salsa

is always mango and ghost chilies, over

catfish farm-raised in firewater.

If the Serrano ribs don’t elicit a Holy Jesus,

I get my money back.

The shrimp cocktail is served with a sauce

the regulars call “pepper prom”—

Trinidad Scorpions grinding on Naga Vipers,

Carolina Reapers smuggling in Red Savinas,

poblanos feeling up habaneros in a dark corner,

a seven-pot Douglah in a single pot.

The chef recommends two dashes for flavor,

a third for bravery. I order a cup.

I dangle each naked, maidenly shrimp

over that pool of lava.

This island may be small, but I am its chief.