Speaking of Men, of Women, of Love | Paulann Petersen


Speaking of Men, of Women, of Love

"I can say this: envious, salt,"
says the Turkish young woman apropos
of nothing in this moment's conversation
except the English words she tried to learn
earlier in our evening's talk. Out of the dozens
she looked up, bent around
her Anatolian tongue, these two 
hold fast in the great miasma
of a new language's sounds.

Envious is what a man must not be—
I'd explained—of a woman's successes.
Salt was simply sitting on the table
in the midst of manti, stuffed aubergine,
rice pudding, red cherries, one fat peach
with a balloon of extra flesh near its stem
big enough to be a rival fruit.
Envious, what the woman must not 
have to be of a man's freedoms.
"Turkish men are stupid," 
she said of those who refuse 
to give their love to a woman 
independent as she.

Salt is easy, plain
contrast to peppers red and black,
or green sleek as envy.
White grains, earth and sea. Jealousies
old and buried, newly brimming.
The sting in a spot chafed raw.
"These I can say," says this woman half way
out of one world, into another so new
in her language it has no name.

                                   —Paulann Petersen


Blood-Silk, Quiet Lion Press, 2004


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