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?