Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

The Pepper King Returns

Aimee Nezhukumatathil

He listens to the tock of two clocks—
neither are synched. The Pepper King

does not know how to walk on ice:
his boots slide with every fourth step or so.

He is used to fine sand and root sledge,
full of rock salt and shell piece. The soles

of his feet are as thick as stale ends of bread.
They will laugh at him, but when he returns

home he will prepare such a fine soup, his son
will wake from his rabbit dreams and ask for

an umbrella. It sometimes rains indoors
and his child knows this. The child will learn

the songs of ice and snow. The Pepper King
finds it natural to name his knives. One for slicing

the delicate skin of tomato, a jagged one
for dark meats, still another to debone a fine

and flakey fish. When the Pepper King serves
his son winter soup full of potatoes and cumin,

the boy will eat and eat and clink his spoon
until you hear something like bells. The snow

yeasts itself in banks and slopes against
the boards of his house. The Pepper King never

knew the rising of his breath in the pineapple fields—
such a sweet and silent thanksgiving.