The Trinidad scorpion is shaped like a wrinkled valentine. Its taste exudes mudslide, the hurt of long fortnights—kettle whiplash, Bunsen flame, red-blooded bullet. Tongue a piece of tinder. Driftwood mouth. Brown tongue, yellow tongue, miscegenation of burnouts. Raw white, yolk drains through gullet, burning spigot. But the scorpion doesn’t only sting—these seeds cross borders, travel through sense and tissue, drill into eyeballs, stampede the remote throat. Have courage: swallow.
Dance in all the forest fires of the future: Tingle— Tangle—Sweat—Drool—Heave—Spin—Break- Dance! Mix the pulp. Snakes snap their jaws through stomach lining. The furniture melts and outside, the cool evening breaks your legs. Tag the building with your spit! Each little devil fits inside your hand: Naga vipers. Infinity chillies. Naga jolokia. Taste one million Scoville units. This is how tongues make mistakes. Your name in lights, on stranger lips. Your lips, in red myth. [End Page 149]
Sally Wen Mao teaches writing at Cornell University. Her first manuscript was a finalist for Tupelo’s 1st/2nd Book Prize and the Four Way Books Intro Prize in Poetry. Recent work can be found in Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, Passages North, Quarterly West, and West Branch, among others.