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Kimberly Casey, Homemade Hot Sauce and Bottle Cap Collector

Homemade Hot Sauce

by Kimberly Casey

The pepper plants keep producing after the first freeze of the year,

branches stiff with ice, weighted with ripe cayenne and habanero.

Even though I haven’t showered, stuck wearing the same stained black hoodie

with torn thumb holes in the sleeves, I cook

hot sauce, red pepper jelly, salsa, stir-fries - anything to eat

the abundance in the bottom of the crisper drawer.

Every morning I pick more, too many to keep up with,

but I can’t bring myself to uproot the plants.

I pack Ziplock bags and gift them to friends.

I try to make jalapeno poppers.

I envy the plants, alive and well, vibrant

orange and red despite the turning weather.

I don’t want to unwrap myself from the grey blanket

but eventually I pull myself from the bed,

shove my feet into worn slippers,

take my medication, move to the kitchen.

1. De-seed and roughly chop 12 peppers. Sautee with minced garlic, salt, and olive oil on low heat until softened.

The pan scrapes against the eye of the stove as I occasionally stir.

2. Add 1 cup vinegar and bring to a boil. Add orange slices, mango, or other fruit if desired for flavor.

The sour scent spreads and my eyes start to water.

3. Boil for 15-20 minutes, until the peppers soften and begin to break down.

I wash my hands but do not wipe my eyes.

4. Let the mixture cool.

I swipe my phone with sticky fingers, but I don’t know who to call.

5. Transfer to a blender or food processor. Blend on high until the mixture is as thin as you prefer.

I dump the tangy concoction into the blender, and the softened pulpy peppers spin and split.

6. Taste. Add more peppers if additional heat is desired.

I play old voicemails. I keep myself alive.

Bottle Cap Collector

by Kimberly Casey

There are so many almosts my mouth has swallowed

that holding my tongue becomes my native language.

The warped wood of the deck is still swollen

with the weeks of rain, but I lie

flat on my back and let the sun beat my bones,

pull off my shirt, nest it under my heavy head

letting my spine sink between the slats

and stare at the bare trees above

waiting for the exact moment that death becomes bloom,

and I wonder if my own body holds the same power.

I still miss the man that walked with me

the last time depression burrowed into me this deep.

I wonder what could have been if I was more prepared,

if I had been going to therapy before we met, was medicated.

I imagine an alternate reality where I asked for his keys

just minutes sooner. This is the first day of sun

where I don’t feel like I don’t deserve it.

Where I don’t feel so responsible for his death.

I still wonder why I called that night for the first time in months,

and why it happened to be just an hour too late.

I memorize the surface of this blame,

a tongue interrogating a wounded cheek.

I pick up every stray bottle cap I can find

and work the worry of my thumb into them

hoping to send a signal to its missing body.

Kimberly Casey's BIO

Kimberly Casey was born and raised in Massachusetts, though she now calls Huntsville, Alabama home. She is the Founder and President of Out Loud Huntsville, a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring community outreach and activism through written and spoken word. Kimberly has competed at Southern Fried Poetry Slam, CUPSI, Texas Grand Slam, and performed at venues across the country.She received her MFA from Pacific University in 2021. She is the Poetry Editor of Passengers Journal. Her first full-length collection, Where the Water Begins, will be released in September 2021 through Riot in Your Throat press. Find more information on the author at

Listen to Kimberly Casey's SOREN LIT interview:

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