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Hot Sauce


My mother kept it under the sink

for the times my mouth got heated

and needed to be cooled down


by setting it ablaze. For every “shit”

I swallowed a teaspoon, each “fuck”

meant chugging from a Dixie cup.


I did the offense and then stood

by the sink to suck a tabasco fiasco

and then beg for water or milk to sip,


eyes sweating like steam on marble.

It didn’t stop me from cursing,

the words sweet in my mouth,


a motherfucking morsel too tender

not to taste, but I learned then

the cost of words, their weight


in fire, the young poet speaking

knowing the punishment, the pain

that always follows the poem.  

James Valvis was homeless three times and has still placed poetry in Ploughshares, River Styx, Arts & Letters, Louisville Review, Rattle, The Sun, and Best American Poetry 2017. His fiction was chosen for Sundress Best of the Net. So what's your excuse again? 

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