“The Broken Cherry, the Poplar, the Yew” by Jennifer Martelli

Painting by Anna Rac.

One Halloween when I was a child, my mother taught me how to make ghosts
from tissue & silk thread tied around their necks. We’d hang them

from the old trees: the broken cherry, the poplar, the yew. The Italian woman next door
left tomatoes from her garden on our back porch, some so fat & ripe

they split & spilt their seeds. We forgot to bring them in, left them out back
on the kidney patio, by the dying orange cosmos. During childbirth—my birth–

they gave my mother forgetting drugs & the straps
to hold her down were lambs’ wool so they wouldn’t leave marks

around her wrists & ankles & behind her knees & remind her
of the pain. She didn’t remember this of course. I remember her

forgetting, it started with numbers, then clocks, then faces. I remember
anybody who ever forgot me. My heart opens a space for a whole autumn night.

I remember the picket fence around our yard, the one with the gate & the old man
with the accordion against his flannel chest. He’d play these slow, slow songs

from another country, or songs I’d never heard here. He’d play that thing
through fall until the first frost & the air rushed too cold through the expanding folds.

Jennifer Martelli is the author of My Tarantella (forthcoming, Bordighera Press), as well as the chapbook, After Bird (Grey Book Press, winner of the open reading, 2016). Her work has appeared or will appear in Verse Daily, The Sonora Review, Iron Horse Review (winner, Photo Finish contest), The Sycamore Review, Sugar House, Superstition Review, Thrush, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal. Her prose and artwork have been published in Five-2-One, The Baltimore Review, and Green Mountains Review. Jennifer Martelli has been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net Prizes and is the recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant in Poetry. She is a poetry editor for The Mom Egg Review.

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