She bought my sweater in Argentina
at least a couple of sizes too large
knowing I’d grow into it for my first
day in elementary school.
The sheen of my dark wavy hair and
sparkle in brown eyes was highlighted
by this handmade chaleco. Its earth
tones contrasted well with my white
shirt and the scared-as-shit expression
on my face. Cottony short-sleeves kept
my heart warm. Five dirt-brown buttons
threaded through eye-loops, secured
my timid chest hoarding fear, I remember
my mother’s smile, her lips pressed
in approval with a pride I should’ve had.
The smell of the sea
is a time machine to
my childhood. For a moment,
I’m in my mother’s kitchen,
a pot of boiling water
steams through perforations
in a wooden colander full of
scooped out of a barrel
at Moranto’s, an Italian deli
in Baltimore—that surrender
their earthy pungency
sweetened by what they ate.
A perfect partner
for baccalà, those stiff planks
of dried salt-cod reconstituted
to firm flesh.
Next to my sink by the fresh
fennel, blue-black shells
are ready for inclusion. I stare
at the mussels wet with shiny
truths of memory.
Salty sea broth tempers
the coarse cornmeal and
I fish out Alagusta e granchio,
lobster & crab, now buried
in the pliable grain saturated
with the saline liquid. I dig out
more than culinary treasures,
more than remembrances
from my childhood, or of my
Sicilian heritage—it’s the image
of my mother in her kitchen,
while my sisters, my father,
and I wait with anticipation
of the meal, and seeing
what she loved to do most
for all of us.
At a Distance
In physics, forces may act at a distance—
push or pull despite the separation of two
interacting objects that are not in physical
contact with each other. Like gravity
or our restless thoughts, an inexorable force
pulling you—pulling me closer to each other.
Between the Lines
When I was a young child
I painted by the numbers,
tried to brush inside lines,
but often slipped outside
like the fat wax of crayons
that smeared the picture.
Yet, mother still praised my
attempts to be an artist.
There’s always a fine line
between important parts
of the picture. The truth is
keeping within the lines
is difficult to do, even now,
many years later. My love
of painting heavy strokes
is gone when there’s
no longer a canvas to fill
by the numbers, to color
my world without clear
boundaries. The truth is
not in the empty spaces
but on the lines.
John C. Mannone has work in Adanna Literary Review, Sonic Boom, Setu, Nthanda Review, Nadwah: Poetry in Translation, Anacua Literary Arts Journal, Acentos Review, Artemis Journal, Poetry South, Red Coyote, Blue Fifth Review, Baltimore Review, and others. He won the Jean Ritchie Fellowship (2017) in Appalachian literature and served as the contest’s celebrity judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (2018). His third collection, Flux Lines, is forthcoming (2019). He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex and other journals. He’s a retired physics professor living in east Tennessee.
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