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VANILLA

 

We sit in little classroom chairs

this late winter evening.

Carolina, so pretty in a pink

sweatshirt. Carolina has been

in this valley only one month.

 

Naomi, Another beauty.

I’ve known for years.

One heel on her shoe built high

to disguise the uneven length

of her legs. Her family in Mexico

too poor to correct her club foot.

 

Macaela, fast- talking, plump,

the critic, bites a cookie, wags

her finger at me. “Good. But

needs more sugar, more vanilla.”

 

I can’t afford real vanilla

and ran out of the artificial

flavor I had left. I bring oatmeal

cookies each week. My offering

for my students.

 

My students get up before

sunlight plant cuttings in pots,

stoop under hot sun to pull

weeds, then come to class

 to learn how to help their children.

 

Naomi says she misses

her rancho village in Mexico,

the light yellow flowers,

the scent of vanilla

from the climbing vines.

 

“A boy called my daughter

a wet back, a criminal,”

Carolina says. Macaela hands

Carolina a cookie. Outside

a sudden spatter of rain.

We all lean closer together.

ALONE ON A WINTER NIGHT

 

Dark before five.

My husband late.

No moon.

I fill the cloth bag

with oak limbs

that once shaded our house.

His supper getting cold,

I listen for the soft sweep

of shoes on our path.

In the house,

I feed the wood stove

kindling

wrapped in today’s news.

An overture

 of flames.

Like anxious concert-goers

hurrying to  seats,

field mice, wintering indoors,

scramble in the attic.

The thin violins

of twigs

rise and fade.

Warm now,

I sip green tea.

Our old oak

sings a capella.

The Tree of White Peaches

 

My grandmother

and I,

like two wily alley cats,

not sure why they survived,

 

filled paper bags

with pink skinned,

fleshy white fruit.

 

Each spring, the tree of white

 peaches grew fat with leaves

and fruit.

 

On summer nights,

we sat in wicker chairs.

spooning peaches

 

and cream,

our empty house settling

behind us.

 

The tree, gnarled, top-heavy,

like her. She’d cry to white

blossoms: you came back

to life.

 

Her daughters with their page-

boys, literary books,and dim

husbands still dead.

Penny Perry is a five time Pushcart nominee, her fiction has appeared in Redbook, California Quarterly, Passager, Thema, Lynx Eye, The Bridge and other print journals, and online at Literary Mama, and Excuse Me I'm Writing. Garden Oak Press published her first collection of poetry,  Santa Monica Disposal and Salvage.