Fiction   Essays   Poetry  The Ten On Baseball Chapbooks In Memory

Bill Mehlman

Chile-eating Days

for fun we dressed for dinner.
she wore a black silk slip, a lilac bra,
garter belts and hose with seams.

i was shoeless.
a madras bowtie matched my Bermudas.
white shawl collar tux.
a faded navy t-shirt.

conch fritters in cayenne tempura
lobster tails with habanero butter
gratin of mango and vanilla
veuve cliquot
polar-cold meursault.
(I know, but we liked it that cold)
panatellas for two.
vieux armagnac.

on our balcony, I would read to her
by hurricane lamp, with my fingers woven through
the garter straps. she would
play with my gold band, tugging fitfully
at it. I read Claudel, although neither of
us had much French left by that point, for
the sound, and Chandler, although he was verging on
quaintness, for the morals.

the beach would shimmer, the sea was still.
we were no age. we knew no dawn.

we sit beneath the umbrella and eat chiles.
we look at each other and bite. the
little ones taste like menthol,
they do not burn so much as numb.
I watch as a drop of sweat accrues on your nipple,
hesitates, and dives.

we look at each other, mad with chiles and beers
and sun and salty sweat-soaked genitals.
the chiles burn. we grin, half in competition
and half in commiseration. the beer does nothing.
another competition. like the ones we used to have, seeing
who could make the other one come first.
you knew the trick, and always won.
but we played for the sake of playing.
not so much any more. our love
is more observant. honeyed, less frenetic.
but there are still chiles to be eaten,
and beers to be drunk.

once you forgot to wash your hands,
after chile eating.
how I suffered.
you poured cold milk over my cock, wobbling with
laughter, tits trembling like divine flans,
mischief fighting with pity in your
eyes. had you really forgotten?

"I could imagine his giving a friend a little pinch of the latest vegetable alkaloid, not out of malevolence, you understand, but simply out of a spirit of inquiry in order to have an accurate idea of the effects. To do him justice, I think that he would take it himself with the same readiness. "

I could never begin to retaliate.
those precincts are sacred to me, and, anyway,
I have poured enough cream
into them over the years.

you always wanted me to look into your eyes when I came.
"Keep them OPEN! LOOK at me!"
you would grab my hair, my ears,
shout into my mouth, pull us together
so that our brows ground into each other.
what did you see? or wish to?
down into my soul?
the fusion of mind and boy? the solution to the
paradox of duality?
no one else can do me like you do do me, so
do do do me again.

Poor me,
poor me,
pour me another drink.
You used to sing that to me in your sillygirl voice,
holding my head against your breasts
as the rain fell outside the hut.
Once we ran out in the rain, naked,
waving bottles of tequila and cans of beer
which we poured into each other's mouths.

We passed out on the beach,
and woke at dusk,
sandy and still half drunk.
You squatted to pee,
and the sand boiled and foamed beneath you.
A small beach crab ran for his life.

You looked at me, gleeful, proud.
"I can piss with any son of a bitch in the joint."
I kicked your thigh and
you fell over laughing,
still pissing.
You were so free. I had you in the sand,
the damp, piss-soaked sand,
the sand grinding between us,
the sun falling like a stone into the ocean,
golden streaks coursing through your hair,
your teeth in my shoulder,
your arms and legs wrapped
around me so hard I couldn't breathe and
feared for my pelvis,
your tiny fists pounding on my shoulders.

"NO! NO! NO! Keep them OPEN! LOOK at me!"

so I will have you with my last breath,
and keep my eyes open when I come,
and let you hold me as I cool, hold
me in your arms, and in your
eyes, and in you
as I cool.
you will like that, my love.
I will be your last.
On that day I will
truly pour my soul into you.
That's what you've always looked for, neh?
And that's what flattered,
most of all, that it was me,
not conch, or cock,
or wine, or lobster,
or books, or rain.

They will prepare me with one tear
in the corner of my eye,
to show that I too mourn,
never again to feel
you hold my head,
and look into my eyes, and see
for the last time, what you
saw there and loved.

©2005 by Bill Mehlman

Bill Mehlman, a graduate of Yale University, has been a professional chef for twenty years. He has owned restaurants, a takeout, a catering company and a jazz club. He is working on a mystery novel and an ever-lengthening poem about World War II.

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