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.