now and laters
Mystery Mix Now and Laters
by Tara Betts

Hard square of colors
varied, but a favorite
was half chartreuse
and purple. No colors
combined in nature.

Each hard square
found tight folded
waxed paper flat
against corners.
Removing bright
taffy, an act of skill.

Now, a square finds
matching wrapper
Big block letters
proclaim wishes
of those who crave
sugar and dread
of those who see
dentists. You will
taste it now, feel
it later. The sweet
lasts. Cavities too.

The litany bore
so much fruit—
watermelon, grape,
cherry, apple,
banana, strawberry,
tropical punch, but
Mystery Mix
relegated to
a mythic list.

Rumors called.
Leftover flavors
mixed together
and dyed, but no
one knew. Senses
require challenges,
question marks
like paisleys on
plastic wrap,wait-
ing to be broken.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I decided to write about Now & Laters because it was a candy that all the kids in my neighborhood ate. There were about 8 in a pack for 10 cents. My grandparents sold Now & Laters in at least a half-dozen flavors at the tavern that they owned. I lived upstairs from the tavern, and some kids would try to get me to give them packs or they would go to the drug store down the street that still sold fountain sodas and various candies for a nickel and a dime — like Mary Janes, Tootsie Rolls, Laffy Taffys, Lemonheads, Boston Baked Beans, Alexander the Grape, and Now & Laters. The “Mystery Mix” flavor described in my poem, like other flavors and Alexander the Grape candies, were discontinued.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tara Betts is the author of Arc & Hue and the chapbooks 7 x 7: kwansabas and THE GREATEST!: An Homage to Muhammad Ali. Her poems has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including POETRYGathering GroundBum Rush the PageVillanelles, both Spoken Word Revolution anthologies, The Break Beat Poets, Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, and GHOST FISHING: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology.

AUTHOR PHOTO: The author celebrating her 2012 birthday with a pretty cake at Urban Word NYC in Manhattan.