Black Cat Gum

Halloween, 2008 / No. 21

Like the Rolling Stones song, it paints

everything black: teeth, gums, tongue,

even epiglottis—a word that delights

my brother and me. Dave can’t say it

often enough, clapping his hands,

Twizzlered up, “Right in the epiglottis!”

as if it’s something that’s caught

a hard pitch, been kicked. As if

its bulge shape could grant it a place

among the family jewels—

this testicular tonsil that drops

when saying, “Ah!” The kids say

if you repeatedly swallow chewing gum,

the doctor’ll pull a tumour from your bum,

a messy Hubba Bubba wad big as a fist.

American candy is better, so we plan ahead,

hand out Heath bars, Lemonheads, Now and Later,

Dots, and Blow Pops, though in 1983

someone tops us with Hot Pix. We amp up:

grape and orange Chews, fifteen cents apiece.

Witch kisses are for old ladies. Suckers

and Rockets get assigned the first piles,

but are last to pass by that ol’ epiglottis.

Dave’s always a banker, counts his candy,

trades Sweet Maries and Milky Ways

like weak stocks. These are the days

of popcorn balls, safe within this subdivision.

Kids’ll line up outside like going to the movies.

For the trick-or-treaters Mrs. Hoorelbeck knows,

there’s fudge. Sparkling lumps of it.

Over the dish, my fingers shilly-shally,

eager to command the largest chunk, have it

telepath itself to me, leap magnetically to my thumb—

as if its girth will give it more chance to seal

sugar to my tongue for another year.