Sugar on My Tongue
by Aza Pace

After Alisoun
(from Chaucer’s “The Miller’s Tale”)


Love, at night I become a weasel, 
Fine auburn and trim enough to slip beneath
My door. My wet black eyes glitter like stones
Polished in a river. They pin you down,
Fellow creature, make you twist in your fur
And count your quick breaths. When you call my name
It comes in a beastly tongue, delicious
In the darkness. So, won’t you let me in
Tonight and give me your feverish hands?
I have a plan and the wiles to work it:
Tread soft as a rabbit or long-legged cat,
And no ears will hear our fervent meeting.
Find me in sweet hay, under a clear sky,
Ripe as a berry and hungry for you.


Ripe as a berry and hungry for you,
Bright and hot as a new coin, primrose fresh
In the stable yard, I watch to see you
Passing through, looking for me too. Join me
In a game by the well, love, let us race
And play tag—anything for a quick pulse
And a touch. Your fingers graze my shoulder—
you think you’ll snatch me then, but no, not quite—
I spring out of range. We’ll call it a draw.
Crafty, maybe you think you can catch me 
While we rest, gobble me up. But careful—
I’m wild as a colt and skittish (in play).
Flatter my mouth, press sugar in your palm,
Proffer it so I will think gentle, sweet.


So I will think gentle, sweet, proffer your
Ink-stained hand, your worn, rounded finger pads.
Show me your blackened tongue tip, where you lick
And lick your pen to quicken its midnight.
Say you will die without me, spill your blood
Like your ink. Write for me exquisite
Exaggerations, slip your words into
My pockets, my unlaced boots. Let me quest.
Still, poetry alone won’t do—it longs
Like sugar on the tongue to be finished.
So take me by my hip bones, handy man,
Show me elegant things. Come with your books
And your instruments to my moonlit room.
Lend me a pen; I’ll lay down a new tale.


Lend me a pen. I’ll lay down a new tale
In the bed linens’ margins. We can lie
In the center, a burrow of soft words.
Ignore that tapping—men at my windows 
And door—I’m plotting escape from their eyes.
They want my human form, the body as romance, 
But I’ll revise for a beast fable instead. Quick,
Pick your animal. Finish your glossing.
We must leave this nest of spun sugar.
Love, summon a flood of fine syllables
To trace on our arms and our shoulders,
Any blank page. Then, when all is ink-drenched,
What will you be? Something clever, craving
Love at night? I become a fine weasel.

Aza Pace’s poems appear in The Southern Review, Copper Nickel, New Ohio Review, Passages North, Bayou, and elsewhere. She is the winner of two Academy of American Poets University Prizes and an Inprint Donald Barthelme Prize in Poetry. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Houston and is currently pursuing her PhD at the University of North Texas.

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