Flavortown USA: Five Capsicum Poems by Steven Ray Smith

 

Tabasco

I repeat
I was not named after
that vinegary tincture you sluice upon your cackleberries

You and I have not met
but let me say to you too
it was named after me
And let me give you some advice

Copyright patent and trademark
your quirky relish and the cut of your compact jib
before the patrons and partygoers
and those with delirium tremens
make of you a recipe that can never be unpublished

 

 

The tabasco is a small and very pungent pepper. It is probably good for many culinary applications but is mostly associated with the trademark sauce produced by McIlhenny Company of Avery Island, Louisiana.

 

Sport Pepper

No one even knows what kind I really am
Alongside a crunchy dill pickle
jammy pickle relish
Sliced beefsteaks
Beef frank
White onions yellowed in mustard
and a dash of celery salt
they might say who is this
hot tempered tongue-scorching weed
Is it a serrano disguised in vinegar
a tabasco undressed of its tabasco

Truth is no one really cares including me
I’m here to open the door faster to what really matters
the desperate refresh of an ice-cold lager
while the sleet salts our seats at Wrigley Field

 

 

The Sport Pepper is an essential ingredient to the Chicago-style hotdog, a heaped-up concoction of diverse condiments served in ballparks.

 

Soup Number Five

Meatus suspended
in broth of lemongrass
the firm red Thai
potency of the bouillon
is nonetheless
a vivacious phantom
of the springy ox
up there

 

 

Soup Number Five is an aphrodisiacal Filipino soup made with bull testes and penises.

 

Goat

Fancy it chevon
cabrito or capretto
it’s still got that soo essence
you can’t wash out
your pants after a wild night of asparagus
or your shirts after that pinonky at the refinery
It’s a tall tumbler of iced sulfur
from the cold tap at the oil field singlewide
Please lord bring me some seagull and turnips
a muskrat casserole and a slice of Casu marzu
with its maggots jumping toward my face as I try to eat them
anything but this stringy stanky gummy goat

Except that is when stewed in Scotch Bonnets
curried bites of unsuspected sonnets

 

 

The scotch bonnet is similar to the habanero and is used widely in Caribbean cuisine.

 

Wiri Wiri and the Cherry

Hungarian Cherry
at home beside the artificial
bacon bits and French
dressing
affable saccharine just
a big bite of seeds
gracious palate cleanser
for the forthcoming deep dish

Wiri Wiri
pretty
much the selfsame orb
if not a little redder
rounder
a little more platonic
botany’s stinging Sixlet
Boston’s burning Baked Bean
Iwokrama’s glowing gumball

You say
it is a red red hot
come to upend your trust in pizza parlors
and the safe umami
that suckled you to taste only sweetness

And I say why is difference something less

 

The Hungarian cherry pepper is very mild, often available on salad bars. The Guyanese wiri wiri pepper looks almost the same but is very very hot.

 


Steven Ray Smith’s poetry has been published in The Yale Review, Southwest Review, The Kenyon Review, Slice, Barrow Street, THINK, Tar River Poetry, Poet Lore, The Hollins Critic, and others. He is developing a chapbook about capsicums (hot peppers) of which the works in Flavortown USA are samples. His web site is StevenRaySmith.com. He lives in Austin.

Image: telegraph.co.uk

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