Denise Duhamel

The Erotics of Mayonnaise

                                     –for JAH and JMW


If I fear may­on­naise, does that mean it holds pow­er over me?  The sand­wich­es I have skipped because of it, pota­to sal­ads leav­ing white pools on a plate, not unlike vagi­nal secre­tions or cum.  From Spain where it was first pro­duced, to France where it was pop­u­lar­ized, to Philadelphia where it was jarred in glass, may­on­naise has made its culi­nary mark—sometimes as an obvi­ous dol­lop, oth­er times wear­ing a dis­guise in south­ern “but­ter­milk” cakes and white bar­beque.  And what about mayo as a con­di­tion­ing sham­poo? A facial mask?  A house­hold clean­er to remove cray­on scrib­bles from the floor?  An emol­lient to make plant leaves and piano keys shine?  O may­on­naise, your diver­si­ty deserves an ode, yet all my gas­tro­nom­ic dis­likes trace back to your jig­gling gooeyness–oozing Ranch and Thousand Island dress­ings, dread­ed lumpy tar­tar sauce.  When my cos­mopoli­tan friend dips her fry into a mound of you, I can’t help it, I am repulsed.  She sug­gests that I slather myself in your slime to see if I am sim­ply repressed.  Is my fear of may­on­naise a fear of some­thing else?  Or is say­ing “I’m afraid I to die,” the same as say­ing “I want to live?”  I learn my fear of may­on­naise is real­ly a plea.  Mustard, come here. Hold me.


Denise Duhamel is the author of numer­ous books and chap­books of poet­ry, includ­ing: Ka-Ching! (University of Pittsburgh, 2009), Two and Two (2005), and Mille et un sen­ti­ments (Firewheel Editions, 2005). Her oth­er books cur­rent­ly in print are Queen for a Day: Selected and New Poems (University of Pittsburgh, 2001), The Star-Spangled Banner, win­ner of the Crab Orchard Poetry Prize (1999); Kinky (1997); Girl Soldier (1996); and How the Sky Fell (1996). Duhamel has also col­lab­o­rat­ed with Maureen Seaton on three vol­umes: Little Novels (Pearl Editions, 2002), Oyl (2000), and Exquisite Politics(Tia Chucha Press, 1997).