by Tina Puckett

It was the crack of the jalapeño peppers that made her cry.
She could feel their juices seep out onto the cutting board
and her tears had nothing to do with the words he’d said
or the way he’d walked away without looking back,
while she stood there, stone-faced, watching.
She diced the peppers, threw them into a pot,
pushed the cutting board into her sink on top
the blue dish, the yellow bowl, the empty vase
spattered on the bottom with curled dead rose petals.
The cat jumped to the counter, curled around her arm
as it stretched toward the faucet so that she could wash
the sting from her pinkened fingers, her raw palms.
She could feel the peppers simmer, hear their sizzle
over the licking flame, against the metal bottom.
The blur pushed past her eyes, down her cheeks
until it tickled the ridge of her jaw line and
wet her neck a little, the place he once had kissed
and tucked his nose, the rough tickle of his goatee
against her while they slept, but she wasn’t thinking
of that or missing him at all as she wiped her face.
It was the opening of those small heated hearts
with their oblong beats and spine of stem that
made her feel flushed as if angered and
made her spill open as if she‘d overflowed.

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Tina Puckett is a graduate student of the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts program pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in poetry. She has appeared in Phoebe (SUNY), MUSE, The Luna Negra, The Penguin Review, and Ophelia Street amongst other publications and currently has a poem in the Wick Poetry Center’s “Speak Peace” traveling exhibition (2010-2013). She has served as editor for the Rock in the River Literary Series at Standing Rock Cultural Arts in Kent, Ohio since the inception of the series in 2010.