I love to lick English the way I licked the hard
Round licorice sticks the Belgian nuns gave me for six
Good conduct points on Sundays after mass.
Love it when ‘plethora’, ‘indolence’, ‘damask’,
Or my new word: ‘lasciviousness,’ stain my tongue,
Thicken my saliva, sweet as those sticks – black
and slick with every lick it took to make daggers
Out of them: sticky spikes I brandished straight up
To the ebony crucifix in the dorm, with the pride
of a child more often punished than praised.
‘Amuck,’ ‘awkward,’ or ‘knuckles,’ have jaw-
Breaker flavors; there’s honey in ‘hunter’s moon,’
hot pepper in ‘hunk,’ and ‘mellifluous’ has aromas
Of almonds and milk. Those tastes of recompense
Still bitter-sweet today as I roll, bend and shape
English in my mouth, repeating its syllables
Like acts of contrition, then sticking out my new tongue –
Flavored and sharp – to the ambiguities of meaning.