Baking Soda (Rough Draft)



Like every momma, she had her own remedies,
like baking soda
on a canker sore. It doesn’t sound easy,
but it worked; besides, her own
mother (my grandmother, died before
I was born) tried this on her,
“And see? I survived.” (Shrug).

I wouldn’t budge; She needed to bend before me
at the bathroom sink, tug
at my lip to expose the ulcer, milk white
and irritated by a curious tongue
running over its crater.

“Hold still.”
It’s better to plunge into the drama,
to twist and grind a coated finger into
the open wound before my consent.
The sting doesn’t make a noise;
if it did, it would have sizzled,
hissed like meat frying on a skillet,
or the poppop…pop of grease landing on
dodging fingers.

And it was over, the pain left
to fade as I slept away anger on the jaw.

My momma
and baking soda
taught me the first life lesson:
sometimes, it must get worse, then better.
By the time I had reached my twenties
I had heard this saying so many times,
in so many ways,
that it began to sound too hopeful
for a self-styled cynic. So maybe
that’s why it’s only true when I hear
it in her voice on days it’s time
to resort to her remedy.


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