From the Spanish salsa meaning “sauce,”
from the Latin salsus meaning “salted.”
Big Boy tomatoes plump as hearts
pulverized in your late-grandmother’s gray
molcajete and tejolete on the kitchen counter,
in your ex-spouse’s blue blender, now buried
in the back of the pantry like a dead rat.
Snapped chicken necks in the blood of roma
tomatoes, decimated beef in liquidized graves
of green bell peppers, jalapeños, habaneros.
Picante—Spanish for “piquant,” as in “charming”
or “stimulating,” unlike your parents’ funerals—
comes from picar, “to sting.” Your favorite salsa
dips, elegies of sauce sway on the ballroom
of your tongue while you cut onions, garlic, chili
peppers, coriander for the salsa roja, salsa
cruda, salsa ranchera, salsa criolla. Pico
de gallo sold in your late-cousin’s store, salsa
cooked to 175 degrees Fahrenheit, no longer
cruda, but doused in vinegar, pickled peppers, no
more thyme to add to a fresh batch at home,
where you used to make bottles of de gallo for
dinner, when you still had enough for everyone
at the now nearly empty table of your life.
No more candlelight, no more logs on the hearth,
no more Ribera del Dero or Rioja or Cava.
Most days you eat sweet salsas on your back
balcony above a dahlia field crimson as
a peninsula of ripe cherry tomatoes: mangos,
pineapples, squirts of lime, sprigs of cilantro
coated with shiny honey under the setting sun.
Creamy salsa in your brother’s old bamboo bowl,
chunks of avocado blended with serrano peppers,
olive oil, cumin. Tonight you’ll sit above your
peninsula, trying to think of nothing but the blood-
red sunset and the spicy sweet salsa stepping
across the silent dancefloor of your lips.
Pushcart Prize-nominated author Jacob Butlett holds a B.A. in Creative Writing. Some of his work has been published in The MacGuffin, Panoply, Rat’s Ass Review, Rabid Oak, Ghost City Review, Lunch Ticket, Into the Void, and plain china.