By Rachael Allen
On Hanover Street, she was buying tomatoes.
The producers watched before asking. Local, Italian, dark-haired mother,
gap between front teeth like her son, like her brother,
voice strong enough to call a boy home,
Wednesdays, to Prince spaghetti pasta.
Come nights we watch her commercial on television,
her leaning out a top floor apartment, calling,
between evening news and the VonTrapp children.
Dinner in the living room, Mama says,
just this once. We place a pillow
over the spot Nickie spilt soup.
Dad eats in the kitchen, neck folding
as he bends to reach his bowl, eyes trained
on the paper, the war. Sometimes,
he talks with her on the phone
and they sift through shifts and tones
in the letters John sends home, hearing him
breathe in the space between words.
She calls again, voice lingering
like the confetti on brick walls
days after the Fisherman’s Feast.
I wonder what she dreams—
in moments, after night’s hand pinches out streetlights,
if she thinks of John running through the streets
of the North End, uniform barely creasing
with his stride, coming home,
if she remembers hearing words of English slip
between his teeth, unfamiliar,
if she doesn’t sleep, and just stares
at the picture of Roosevelt hanging
like a relative in her room.
It’s just so hot. Most nights
she sits, cross-legged, on the floor by the fan and eats,
looking out the window
to where the letters meet the fig tree.
Her walls are made of words, cutout
love from friends, articles, medical lexis,
lyrics that make her think
of the first time she saw New York.
The city flooded her and she surged.
Now, some nights, she and the boy go to the Juliette
for a crème brulee and take it to the park, feeling
the basketball court grit into arms as they lie,
watch suns dip into the glass of skyscrapers.
She thinks of her mattress raised with textbooks,
of painting late at night—doors, walls, ceilings,
of the photograph of her curved along the subway wall,
hand meeting the boy’s, the fresh night settling
upon them like yellow fog
that steams in the train’s brake lights.
She wishes the boy were from here, that he grew up
in Brooklyn, and remembered something
like buying Neapolitans from the Italian bakery at Christmastime.
He’s just talking about St. Louis now,
and she’s barely listening, thinking of tomorrow
when she’ll buy crooked flowers at Penn Station
to place in a ribboned jam jar
on the center of a table
in some third floor apartment
where windows barely brush fig leaves.
Rachael Allen is a junior at Milton Academy, in Milton MA. She has been published in and is the literary editor of her school literary magazine, Magus Mabus. She also works as a member of the student advisory board for The Marble Collection (The Massachusetts High School Magazine of the Arts). She hopes to pursue creative writing in college and become a veterinarian or a writer, or both.