Three Poems by Kathryn Petruccelli

Escape to a Café:
Leaving my Son with a Sitter for the First Time

And the old man pulls his whining, squealing car
up to the curb in front of me as I sit
at my table in the sunny part
of the porch where I’m trying
to enjoy the sweetest-looking tart
they had, the chocolate is oozing
some kind of mapley-syrupy stuff and
thank God for the French.
It is a four-door Mazda in baby blue. The man
removes the oxygen tube from his nose and gets out.
He has left the car running
and it rattles and coos while he shuffles
toward the mailbox
rounding the hood as the engine complains on,
his right hand clutching
the stamped envelope, and when he makes it
to the box and releases his letter, he opens the door
a second time, like one most often does, to check
if everything is okay.


Through This

Love me through this.
Help me into my ill-fitting skins - -
adulthood, motherhood.
If you have to labor 12 hours, 36 hours, forever, love me.
As my belly rounds and juts, love me for it.
Hold in your hand my swollen fingers,
pretend they are not fat as root vegetables.
Kiss my forehead once, again, again.
Love me through this
when I snatch my arm from your touch
when I stomp my feet
like a child, bury my face
in my hands like a widow.
When the third jar this week
slips and shatters on the kitchen floor,
while you're wringing out the mop, love me.
Love me like it's just the two of us,
like the answers will be revealed,
oracle tea cups spelling out messages in soggy leaves.
Love me, bent on escape, running
to the garden, beating at the dirt.
Block the emergency exits and love me.
Love me like we planned this,
carefully, making dignified strokes of the pen.
Love me as if the burden sits on your chest
like a breeze, mixing with your breath,
momentarily raising a few strands of hair.
Press your optimism to me like a blanket.
Whisper to me like I'm a one-night stand,
a dying soldier, cut out lies for me
that hang around the doorframe,
fragile paper dolls. Grab me
by the shoulders and look at me,
as if you understand.


Soul Food

A cluster of women
in traditional Korean dress
leaves the Mexican taquería
and crosses the street in front of the Ford pickup.
From high, bowed waists each skirt releases
its own soft color: mint, peach, custard, a velvety blue.
Their rich black hair is cut bluntly,
all just below the jaw line.
The wind billows out their exaggerated skirts,
so that they look like bells or gumdrops
gliding along on the breeze.

I wonder where they came from
to appear here in the downtown crosswalk,
in the bustle of this
Saturday morning.
Perhaps the wedding food
left that much to be desired,
and they headed – in full regalia –
for the safety of a burrito and chips.

I picture those skirts
bunched and squished into a vinyl booth
while a cha-cha plays over the speakers.
I imagine them laughing together quietly,
as the Mexican hot chocolate arrives,
as they lick salsa from their fingers.

Kathryn Petruccelli