Cathexis Northwest Press

© 2018 

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the difference between sugar and salt
00:00 / 02:01

in grief i cover my tongue in sugar

chocolate fondant cake

morning buns

a pastel de nata

egg custard flaking everywhere 


but all i think of

is the salt growing in my body

as tears evaporate 




salt was precious once 

carried across the desert

on a thousand camels 

weaving south


a pound that could 

hold back death 

was more valuable

than gold or concubines 



decomposition smells like sugar

complex forms collapsing

into a simple syrup



the lesson of Lot’s wife


don’t turn back

don’t yearn for the past 


some moments must fall apart

if they don’t

you’ll only preserve 

hollow things


like a pillar of salt

on an empty plain 




in grief 

i yearn to crumble

into someone else’s arms


but i keep standing

preserved despite

my best intentions



what the Dead Sea reveals 

about salt


it will call upon

every open wound

even the shaving nicks

you didn’t know of


even in water

it only hides

crystallizing rocks 

as water recedes


no matter how hard

you push 

it returns everything

to the surface



at the funeral

they sugarcoat his life

of bruises and barbs 


i don’t mind

sugar dissolves 

my words will remain

Katie Simpson is a writer and photographer based in San Francisco. Her work has been featured in Quiet Lightning, HitRecord's Body Book, and Eastern Iowa Review. When not writing, she loves traveling and people watching. You can find her online at:

"The day my grandfather died, I had a sweet pastry for breakfast, trying to soothe my grief. But all I could taste was my own grief. This poem began in that contrast. My writing is usually trying to answer a question so deep I don't have the words to ask the question directly. Through writing this poem, I found the words both for the questions of grief and the answers that would heal me. 

For those reading this, I hope this poem helps you find your questions, and begin to find your own answers to grief."