canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999


by David Solway

Pepper is the fruit of a tree
that grows on the south side of the hill
and its leaves resemble juniper
and it is defended by serpents.
When the slopes of pepper are ripe
they are set afire to chase away serpents
and by such burning
the grain of the pepper that was smooth and white
is made black and wrinkled and hard.
Pliny says that pepper should be white
and is charred by rabidness of the Dog Star,
but Denys says that the Saracens
roast pepper in the oven
until it is the colour of burgundy
for of darkness and ruddiness they are overly fond.
Pepper is thus of three kinds:
some pepper is lanky and unripe,
some is white that is not blemished with fire,
some is black and ravelled from parching
but is a treasure nonetheless
for a sachet of pepper brings
double its weight in salt.
Old pepper is sometime new manifested
by flair and cunning of merchants
who wet old pepper and sprinkle lead thereon
medlied with particles of silver
and although this is claimed in allegory
as just and felicitous for scripture
it is not apt for pepper.
And pepper has many profitable uses:
pepper has power to temper and dissolve,
to distill gouty lixiviums,
to purge the brain of phlegmatic superfluity
and to draw virulent humours,
to stiffen and engorge and make rubicund and voluminous
the sagging chronicles of the flesh
as also to constrain the walls of passage
in fit proportions
and liven the muskiness of its odours,
to shrivel the cobwebs of the sight
yet distress the attacker with blindness,
to give the tongue pentecostal fluency,
to resurrect the appetite from the tomb of monotony,
to stint the gleet and foredry the rheum,
to initiate sneezing and cast out devils,
to spile off menstrual blood
and to soften the stool as with smelting.

It were long to reckon all the virtues of pepper.




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ISSN 1494-6114. 

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