Paola BruniPoetry / Number 98
What if we replace the rancid
palette of curses: the fucks, shits, and assholes,
with something sweet and abiding,
words that instill a sense of calm
like a well-lit room.
Utter, for example, tomato in an English lilt
when pressed to Highway 1’s shoulder
by the impertinence of a forty-foot trailer.
Whisper eggplant in a southern drawl,
or in French, aubergine, while stalled
in a lengthy Starbuck’s queue.
Or when the Boeing 737 is grounded,
a transfer aborted, approach the uniformed
agent pondering, Oh! Radish. Oh! Cumquat.
Turnip and carrot are equally congenial,
friendly in the mouth.
The Buddha says inhale the pain of others,
exhale peace. But perhaps this is too much to ask.
When a child jogs the spine of your theater seat,
consider fruits and vegetables of slight
proportion: the pale oval of a jade grape,
the tight leafy armor of a Brussels sprout,
or ma petite patate douce.
And while on hold with a call center
half a world away, contemplate
the Arabic apricot, mshmsh or pepper, felfel.
Wouldn’t you rather feast on fragrant language
than words that leave a residue of hate
on the tongue?
Should your lover eye the waitress
at the Santa Cruz Diner with lust,
replace bastard with cucumber, son of a bitch
with you son of a sweet potato, and find a salt of humor
in the midst of a jealous rage.
How long must we hold the darkest of sentiments
inside us? Surely our bodies have enough to contend with.
Sometimes, I lapse into idiom: stupid bitch, dumb fuck,
and try to imagine barbs trilling the soft pink
threshold of larynx and vocal folds,
emptying from the chalice of my mouth
into the patient, ecstatic earth.
Oh fennel! Oh quince! Oh fig!
Paola Bruni’s work has been published, or is forthcoming in: Comstock Review, Massachusetts Review, Five Points Journal, Poet Lore, Red Wheelbarrow, Rattle, Catamaran Literary Reader, Italian Americana, Mudfish, and Phren-z, among others. She is the 2019 winner of the Morton Marcus Poetry Prize and 2017 winner of the Muriel Craft Bailey Poetry Prize.Tomatoes on balcony by Slejven Djurakovic