Max Heinegg

Red Peppers

She taught me how to prepare them, to char 
the indigestible gloss, to steam them 
in their own heat until the sections split 
& can be held like tongues.
Near the kitchen table, the servant’s stairs 
led to my old room. Grandma Ethel slept in the next.
She’d return from her nursing rounds & bask 
in Willie Nelson, accompanying him on accordion. 

Once I happened upon her naked; I made myself forget. 
Once, she took me to Excalibur, & draped her cold
fingers across my eyes when Guinnevere found Launcelot 
armored in the woods. A grudge worth years. 

She wore her hair in a bun, licked her lips before speaking,
& kept cow tongues in our fridge, a terror 
I never saw opened, like her feud with my father, 
but I’d hear stories when the other was gone 

& wonder at what shine had been
held over the grates.  The way these ornaments
cling to their scorn under cold water, the flesh 
fighting to avoid tenderness, not let go.

Max Heinegg is an English teacher, singer-songwriter, and brewmaster who lives with his family in Medford, Massachusetts. His poems have appeared in The Cortland Review, Thrush, Nimrod, Tar River Poetry, and Columbia Poetry Review, among others. His records can be heard at

Red Peppers painted by Oumaporn Lucic

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