Melissa Montimurro: Three Prose Poems
Snapshot, Summer 1943 | Yet It Is Never Finished | Sylvia at Eighty
Snapshot, Summer 1943
Nettie and I, eighteen, up in the country, standing on the patio in our good shoes. All summer painting our nails and reading cookbooks by the lake. Johnnie's in Italy, Young Harry's somewhere at sea. Just our mothers and the girl cousins here now during the week. Mah-jongg and India nuts help us navigate the days. Up here we have no maps, just the radio. The newsmen's silver voices blanket our days. So many places with so many names: Munda, Kiska, Palermo. Some days we take the rowboats out, pretending to fish. We smoke cigarettes, drink sneaked gin, let our painted toes skim the open eye of the lake.
You can't hear the storm's low rumble behind us, but it is there. Soon after we stop squinting into the camera, the sun will drop through a dark door in the sky.
Johnnie and Harry will eventually come home, having moved through rooms of strange flesh in other countries. Home will mean a place longed for at night. The things that matteredthe brick barbecue, the patio, the main house's gleaming floorswill not matter as much.
Later that day lightning will crash through the screen door of the main house kitchen. It will hit the old black frying pan that hangs by the stove. All afternoon and into the evening our ears will ring with the sound of it.
Yet It Is Never Finished
That unsteady anchor, Memory: a cold stone breaking open. Shutters flung out along the avenues. You try to finish with it, yet it is never finished. You beg for a little clean light to see by. O small boat of your frenzied heart! Rocking in the murky waters at the pier. Below, the silver fish, little strangers with familiar faces. In the clouds above, you see the landlord's angry bulldog, Crazy Henry waving his stick, the purple bicycle, the nuns twisting their hair at night...
You go like this, into each evening. In the dark, you make up names for the stars you do not know.
Sylvia at Eighty
It's somethinga life unthreading, the fat tangle you're then left with. But dusk and dawn, they're almost the same anyway. Each unfolds into a new story wanting faith.
In some map of the sky Sylvia's unmoored mind floats, husked lean, down to what's essential. Here is her body, shipwrecked at this table in Florida. Her hands pray around a glass of water. Circle the room with your own good eyes and notice the birdcage, pictures on the wall, two lamps at work roundly in their devotion to light. Hear the frip frip of the ceiling fan petalling the ordinary air. Sylvia, cloud-haired, eclipsed, hums above this, skims the sky's tides in her jeweled ark. Below, her grown son and daughter are tender in their worry. Light, brilliant through white curtains, comforts the bread, the knife on the table. But Sylvia's done with the muffin tins and bedsheets here. She might stack them and drape them, and call it a castle.
She's naming her constellations:
Father at His Bench
A Horse I Once Knew
The Smell of Black Walnuts
Lips of Lovers
Soon, these powder into rumor, too, and fall to Florida, the ashes of burned-out suns.
Now her galaxy's curved shore dissolves.
Now Sylvia's mind migrates.
She's outgrown this one thin history.
Melissa Montimurro lives with her husband and four sons in rural northwestern New Jersey, where she teaches poetry writing workshops in the schools and in private and group home settings. Her work has appeared or will appear in Literal Latte, Kalliope, Iris, Bugle, Snowy Egret, The Comstock Review, Clay Palm Review, ForPoetry.com, Tundra, American Tanka, Midday Moon, and others. A chapbook of her poems, "Onion Festival Seeks Queen," has just been released from Pudding House Publications.