Susan McLean

She liked to try new things when she was young—
exotic spices, pungency, and heat—
but when she tasted him, she burned her tongue.

A fling might be a thrill, but to be flung
aside after one bite, like rotten meat,
punctured her water wings. When she was young,

she thought her rash desires might die unsung,
that she could keep her sharp chagrin discreet.
But he, she learned, possessed a boastful tongue

and liked to tag and show his conquests. Stung,
she’d never thought he’d bring his friends to meet
the girl he bragged he’d had. When she was young,

she’d thought herself an equal, not a rung
on someone’s climb to triumph. Her defeat,
it seems, was his success. She bit her tongue

the next time that a handsome angler slung
his bait her way. The lure of something sweet
now had an acrid tang. When she was young,
she thought she liked it hot. She burned her tongue.

Susan McLean, a retired English professor, has published two poetry books, The Best Disguise (winner of the Richard Wilbur Award) and The Whetstone Misses the Knife (winner of the Donald Justice Poetry Prize), as well as one book of translations of Latin poems by Martial, Selected Epigrams.  Her poems have also appeared in Measure, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Able Muse, and elsewhere.