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Daughter, and: Nesting with Spoons
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Daughter

In the days when I wrote short stories
and still didn't know how dreadful they were,

when I used the real names of everyone
I knew, I could not imagine

anything other than how they dressed,
what they ate, and why they did the expected.

And I didn't notice across the river
an overcast afternoon in Manhattan, or see

the girl who's taken to the children's bookstore
where her favorite author signs his latest work.

Her mother, who's recently divorced
and would never describe herself as impulsive

discovers she's attracted to the man,
and while afterward her daughter pretends

to examine the displays of books, the woman
invites him to their apartment for dinner.

The shop where this will happen is small
but well situated, filling steady orders

from the private schools that seem to be
on every other block. The girl, who's seven

and still loves being read to, is in her room
that looks across to Riverside Park.

A wall calendar reads 1980,
which seems right for the styles of dresses

hanging in her closet, or the pink
record player that sits in one corner

and is living on borrowed time. In the kitchen
she has to be told more than once to eat lunch,

but she is thinking about later, and while
she isn't sure what will happen at the bookshop,

she dreams of discouraging clouds
which shadow the other children,

that rain will punish their beautiful mothers,
though none as beautiful as hers,

and she can see—seated at a table,
fountain pen in his long fingers

and waiting patiently, the handsome prince
whose story she will write without my help.

Nesting with Spoons

My friend Peggy would spin these elaborate stories
to explain her absences, her everything;
the more complicated, the more I listened.

I used to think I had no choice. Thelonious Monk
once told his producer he was late for a session
because the cab he was in collided with a police car;

Monk understood colorful. My friend Albert
dropped from sight for six months, but on returning
explained he'd been treated in Phoenix for cancer,

a large tumor taken from his small intestine, followed
by chemo. For a while everyone was sympathetic,
then his ex-wife announced he made the whole thing up.

Peggy lied to fill in the holes of missing hours
devoted to heroin. What Albert really does, where Albert
goes, is never explained. The gaps in his biography—

six months, a year, two years—won't close; the icy drafts
keep some of us awake. My favorite Albert tale
is known as The Great National Parks Tour:

sixteen months devoted, on a whim, to visiting
every park, but ending when he took a header
down fifty rickety steps on a mountain in Glacier,

then lying in a coma for months. Still, he healed up
good as new, and if in the mood, he'd lift a pants leg
and show you an old scar as harmless as high school.

Before she died at thirty-nine, Peggy had her nose broken twice
and lost her spleen after someone kicked her too hard;
they were angry, she said, because she kept falling asleep.

Monk's producer took the police-car story in stride:
it was Friday the thirteenth; there was still time
to record four tracks. Everyone had waited.

The last time I saw Albert he was playing blackjack
in Henderson, Nevada. His skin looked bad, he was in a trance.
The woman being ignored suddenly hissed in his ear.

Sometimes Peggy would shoot up in my apartment
while I'd pretend I couldn't bear to watch,
and afterward she'd tidy up on her own,

even wash the spoon she had used. The next morning
it was back in the drawer, nesting
with the others. This way, nothing was wrong.

David Petruzelli  

David Petruzelli won the Tupelo Press First Book Judge's Prize for his collection, Everyone Coming Toward You. He lives in New York City.

Copyright © 2013 Louisiana State University Press
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David Petruzelli. "Daughter, and: Nesting with Spoons." Southern Review...



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