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P O E T R Y
by Meri Culp
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.