I never could understand
why the Finns love salmiakki.
That bitter candy, as vile
as tequila puke on a mold-
smeared bathroom floor.
That salt-puckered candy tempted
foreign mouths to spit out its licorice tang
to ooze like tar into a white sink. Every Finn
professed their love of salmiakki, a simile
for Finnish nature; bitter to swallow,
even when dunked in sugar or chocolate,
but a reward, a triumph over stoicism
every time a Finn forced those black grenades
down my gullet. I resisted, propelled by a single
stubborn notion of salmiakki’s nature. Except,
my rigid will softened with your quirky
insistence, Erkki. Every trip to the video
rental store heralded another adventure
for my hesitant tongue as you plopped
a hideous assortment of sugar coated devils
into a bag, a jaunty grin on your face.
Under your guidance, I tried every kind
with a simper, as the noxious chlorine fumes
hovered up my nose. But I never regretted
the taste given to me by your outstretched hands.
With your patience, the curious complexity
of that tricky candy yielded to my tongue
flavors I never knew existed. And now, my salmiakki
connoisseur, the Atlantic, not salmiakki, bars us
from each other, a tougher border to overcome
than the most wretched licorice.
But Erkki, don’t send a box-
it would taste of the distant, sour ocean.