[An edited version of this poem appears in the ebook Like. Love. Hate. available at Amazon and Smashwords.]
Mustard is formless yet gives form to the tasteless with a glancing gaze and a dollop of flattery. It’s the imaginary strawberry topping on a hope sundae. It’s a periwinkle crayon, a surprise, neither blue nor purple, operating as a symbol of whimsy. As amorphous as a Persian cat, it’s an abstraction, a sly appraisal meant to stand for the opposite of cabbage (in turn, a thing that means only itself, layered and dense, the heart of it calm, plotting, and planning, the red ones running to burgundy). It’s an 11-fingered hand dangling over the side of the pool float, trailing the water, or is that just me? It’s the memory of five minutes ago illegally parked, blocking in a spring day (dandelion seedheads, floating sugar, a clutter of fairies fat on Lay’s potato chips, Wednesday on its throne symbolic of a fading week, a ghost whisperer angling for a record deal). It’s a modicum of maturity and freedom, wearing sandals despite the apprehension of baring unpainted toenails. Almost too busy for a schedule, it’s a Superbowl party dip–for want of a better term–fried to a crisp, like for like.
Slathered, not spread, you clog my heart, my Mayonnaise, looking for all the world like a beautiful mistake. Sincerest appreciation, my Chocolate-Dipped Optimism! My pen, amazed, is the master of thoughts that mewl like kittens, simple in their complexity, of utmost interest to infants and scientists, like fractals, the cruciferous broccoli, the absolute quiet. Nothing can prepare one for the brightest of reds or the truth of seven, for the ocean oozing from the sides of a karma sandwich. Imagine me speeding down the highway full out, convertible top open on a dry summer day, Equal artificial sweetener-laced iced tea in the cooler; the dirt of a picnic lunch, a spread being laid, the samba of Friday, nocking a bow like a Warrior Princess, stomach weak from laughter, having the wisdom to walk barefoot, suffering only useful worries as I, engrossed, thumb through my itinerary: next, the Olympic trials of being in love with love.
Ketchup stares up from the plate and masks the taste of all it touches, a twisted imitation of Midas, a cousin to vanilla in the family of delusion, a pencil point ripping the page. We are blindsided by its power as a pantry staple: That sort of control is usually reserved for that which has fur and sharp teeth, crouched and waiting in obscurity, assuming we are the dangling carrots. The silence and the shrewd calculation that silence conceives (the answers born pink, snouted, and squealing) are separated by exactly three feet, as it’s hard to drown in a lake more shallow, and me, tuned in after years of traffic tickets, dark winters, and nonfoods (like ketchup and Splenda), still sweeping up the dust, lies, and Tuesdays knowing vampire slayers don’t exist. We feed at will and vomit the excess, and no one becomes immortal. Socks bunched up around our ankles, we are guilty of life, obsessively budgeting the cost of our dotage. This game, this sport, this need that robs independence boils over the pot onto our clean stoves. Hate sucks the air out of the room.
© Sweepy Jean and Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World, 2012