by Mary Beth Hines
The girl who lives next door watches the quiet
backlit drama unfold from beneath the willow tree
in Alonzo’s backyard. Celia’s gone. The old man’s
head dips and bobs—a fuzz of white moon
in the murky universe of their small brick house.
She wriggles and waves to catch his eye.
He shambles out through the back door
dressed in the sagging scarlet sweater that smells
of Celia’s summertime apple-blossom geraniums.
He says ciao, bella, limps down the steps.
She touches his hand. His fingers brush her head.
He speaks in Italian—keen, wheeling words
she tenders in echo. Each syllable dwindles
October’s losses, mesmerizes as her English cannot,
and she grins when he casts the remembered spell,
chants, plucks a quarter from behind her ear.
They stand together, still. He points to the sky
and traces for her a glint of Mars, the Harvest Moon,
the Draconids—free falling stars. And she drifts
with his words into the ether as if she were Celia,
her quarter a sun, the evening sky shelter.
Mary Beth Hines’s debut poetry collection, Winter at a Summer House, was published by Kelsay Books in November 2021. Her poems, short fiction, and non-fiction, appear, or will soon appear in Crab Orchard Review, Tar River, The MacGuffin, SWWIM, Valparaiso, and elsewhere. Her short fiction was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Following a career in public service, she writes from her home in Massachusetts. Connect with her at www.marybethhines.com