“Peppermint Tea” by Nathalie Chicoine

Nathalie Chicoine (age 14)


Hum the Christmas carols
you hope you hate.
She pours tea straight from the pot,
bubbling and boiling like witch’s stew,
into the mug,
which is more like a bowl, which is more like an ocean she
presses her finger to your lips when you blow away the steam.
The ocean is lonely without fog.

She ruffles your hair and unscrews the honey jar,
licking the spoon,
because it’s important to lick the spoon,
to taste sweetness when you give it away,
and though the honey melts into steam, and peppermint, and witch’s stew,
it tastes like springtime.
She wraps her fingers around her mug and blows.

She is Doctor, Friend, Daughter, but you call her Mom.
She knows tossed autumn leaves and German chocolate
pronounced withed a rolled rrrrrrr and yes, peppermint tea.
She is also defensive and pained and, well, direct.
Her January gales may rip air from your lungs
but wind blows away clouds
and sometimes a storm is necessary to count the stars.

She catches constellations with butterfly nets
and ties them to strings,
so they’ll always be with you,
well, not always,
balloons pop, you know,
but they still make you smile.

When July bumbles by
(smelling like cow dung, but hey, that’s Sonoma)
she rolls from under minivans and mustangs,
her hands slicked with oil.
She treats grease like a medal, not a stain,
refusing to let you scrub.
Radio wires are woven into her hair, around her wrists, and
between her teeth.

She hammers IKEA desks
into something resembling the catalogue.
And when she turned a baseball into a satellite,
she didn’t watch.
She ran home.

from 2018 Rattle Young Poets Anthology


Why do you like to write poetry?

Nathalie Chicoine: “Poetry is like a jungle: sometimes terrifying, sometimes beautiful, and easy to lose yourself in. Unlike a narrative, a poet is allowed to play coy without (usually) frustrating the reader. Books are, as a rule of thumb, for reading, but poetry incorporates rhythm and sound into recitations. It’s a total art form.”

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