Ode to Amargoso

(Momordica charantia)

It is your smell that precedes everything else:
before your leaves shoot up and crowd the trellis,

it is the one thing that tells me you’ve taken root
for certain— singular impudence of bitter green

lining the air, sending wiry tendrils in search
of more space to coil around and conquer.

The small yellow blossoms are foils, deflector
shields: covering the rough bulge of fruit

behind them, until there’s no recourse.
They’ll fall away as the fruit lengthens,

ridged hollow boat packed to the core
with bitter juice and pith, with seeds

flatter and thinner but less shapely
than almonds, taught to row in darkness

without stopping, toward whatever exit.
Where is your heart among them? If I found

and ate it dressed with every bitter thing
in your retinue, would it make me stronger?

You know I’d do so to make my own heart more
impervious to fickle milk and sugar, to the balm

of honey offered by the bees, to the stings
that lash my cheeks, leaving trails of salt.

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