“A Triptych in Dark Chocolate for Unavenged Hearts” by Karen An-hwei Lee

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A Triptych in Dark Chocolate for Unavenged Hearts

My friend’s spouse of nine years left for a masseuse.
Fodder for your poetry, she said, dryly. In silence,
I baked a luscious ginger chocolate olive oil cake.

Grief is rich as chocolate and olives. I mixed the oil,
unbleached flour, and the darkest, pure cacao in a tin
at the open air market. Cups of vinegar, cold water.

Richer than the wells of a rejected love, kissed pits
of olives, of thousand-year eggs with ammoniac suns
bathing in vats of horse urine, aged in urns of ash,

sorrow leavened with cacao pods orbiting the moon.
While sap rises in the xylem of maples, a sealed jar
of cacao blossoms wails, airless. Sitting in a muddy

kitchen, my friend rails against her fate. This hurts
like a pair of scissors opening in her throat. I slice
cake and slide it onto a dish. After a pause, she forks

a mouthful, then sighs, no use crying over spilled milk.
Get me a glass. Cool this burning sludge of lava cake,
six yolks beaten with heavy cream, a spoon’s nocturne

of ginger chocolate ganache trussed in velvet, mousse
cake richer than gravity itself, than the darkest topsoil
in northern forests, than the solanaceous nightshades,

than glowing skins of aubergines or ground cherries
— gooseberries, Chinese lanterns — and of a frightfully
young belladonna who took her spouse of nine years.


Karen An-hwei Lee

Karen An-hwei Lee is the author of Phyla of Joy (Tupelo, 2012), Ardor (Tupelo, 2008), and In Medias Res (Sarabande, 2004), winner of the Norma Farber First Book Award. She authored a novel, Sonata in K (Ellipsis, 2017). Lee also wrote two chapbooks, God’s One Hundred Promises (Swan Scythe, 2002) and What the Sea Earns for a Living (Quaci Press, 2014). Her book of literary criticism, Anglophone Literatures in the Asian Diaspora: Literary Transnationalism and Translingual Migrations (Cambria, 2013), was selected for the Cambria Sinophone World Series. Lee’s work appears in literary journals, such as The American Poet, Poetry Magazine, Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, IMAGE: Art, Faith, Mystery, Journal of Feminist Studies & Religion, Iowa Review, and Columbia Poetry Review and was recognized by the Prairie Schooner / Glenna Luschei Award. She earned an MFA from Brown University and a PhD in English from the University of California, Berkeley. The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, Lee is a voting member of the National Book Critics Circle. Currently, she lives in San Diego and serves in the university administration at Point Loma Nazarene University.

Photo Credit: Staff