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AR #60 Cover
number 60

by Meri Culp

Cayenne Warning

Even the pepper's skin will burn to the touch, Mom, my son says
as he fingers the slim fire, the just-picked red ripeness.

Be careful, he reminds, all kindness, newfound protection,
as I watch him harvest the peppers, red-handed, soon-to-be a man.

I want to tell him of life's red hot sting,
of his grandmother's dying request

for me to paint her fingernails chili pepper red,
to unearth from her drawer a favorite lipstick,

Revlon's Marooned, the color of black/red gardens,
the deep bite of goodbye, an open wound.

I want to say, I know of burning, my son,
how one night, I fell hard into a sunset,

slammed into a slow-blaze burn
of every shade of red,

learned how crimson turns scarlet,
then fades, like nightfall, old chiffon , dusty and pink.

But instead, I heed his advice,
let him sound the warning alarm,

as if I had lived my life in a gentle garden,
in a place I notice is now: my son, me, our red cayennes.

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