christine poreba


A butterfly flaps lightly

down the highway.

It’s how a prayer

slipping in the dark

might look when

thrown to spoken air.


It floats toward

our windshield,

and is gone.

On the scale of tragedy

this collision

is a fight in a dollhouse.


But the mark left

on the glass could

look a bit like

any human sorrow,

couldn’t it?


The way the stain spreads

crooked in a corner,

and vibrant colors slur

into a spot of white

that opens up

another memory,


another butterfly,

one we climbed

to a roof to release

from a box

into a sea of city,


one flying close

to the ground

that a four-year-old

with a purple sneaker

and double-knotted laces

stepped on with a purpose

no one understood,

with the force

of a hard current of sky.


I heard the waiters scolding us tonight

in Spanish to each other

at Coletto’s Restaurant

off Market Street in San Francisco

as they cleared away

our half-eaten cannolis,

mashed mix of whipped cream,

crooked chocolate letters

    Happy Birthday Sherri

left carelessly to soak in porcelain.


I pictured this dessert in little portions

safely bagged inside my freezer—

how I would have loved to sneak away

with the pieces of that night,

the way my mother and I used to at

those receptions we would go to.


Together, we’d delicately push those olive-dotted

sandwiches, Carr’s crackers packed

with thick slabs of herb speckled cheeses,

little bunches of grapes and curvy

Italian cookies into paper napkins

and then into her purse and my pockets,

as we circled through elegant ladies

who nibbled on edges of rye and left

them to lie on table tops.


I used to watch the chocolate melting lines

inside the wafers while we waited for the subway

and revealed our sweaty packages—

I couldn’t remember when I’d felt so satisfied,

my mother and I smiling at the 86th Street subway stop,

sharing what we’d saved, sweeter in secret.


What is happening to me?  I think

as I sit silently inside Coletto’s, hands

in my lap with leftovers being taken away;

just last week I’d been with a date

who had our paella packed in styrofoam for me

and called the next day, disappointed, to say

he’d found it spoiled on the floor of his car,

yellow rice dried out and useless, grains

I had tasted and loved and left behind.