I didn’t mean to drown
it, the spider, rising
out of the kitchen drain.
Its many-legged spasms
denounce the drained
tuna can water and I,
the drainer, watch
until it finds stillness.
Then I hurl into
action, chop onions
until tears refuse
to dislodge themselves
from my eyes. Grief
for something that could
not live through a flood
is ridiculous. The sting
is in the onions. Only
THOSE GODDAMN DUCKS
As I stepped into the sunset
by the lake, my eyes were drawn
to the silliest sight in the splendor:
two ducks swimming side by side,
nearly obscured by the magnificent
hues reflected in the water.
My thoughts sauntered to
the first place they go whenever
ducks are involved - Tony Soprano
and those goddamn ducks in his pool.
Naturally, I started thinking about
how much you’d love The Sopranos.
How five minutes into the first episode
you’d start talking in an accent
that could be Exhibit A in the case for
the existence of racism against modern-day
Italian-Americans. You’d call me a wise guy
and make equally stereotypical
hand gestures. A couple episodes later,
you’d find a way to work Nietzsche into
your analysis of the show, and worse of all,
I’d want to hear every word. You’d worship
Tony, obviously, defend him vehemently.
Of course he’s a bad guy, but he’s not a bad guy, y’know?
He loves his family so much. He doesn’t treat women
as well as he should but, c’mon he’s trying.
He’s just doing the best he can.
He’s a product of his environment, y’know?
You wouldn’t really be wrong, of course,
but that’s not the point. Tony really did take care
of those ducks though, I couldn’t argue with that.
Fed them, built them a little ramp, and wanted them
to stay so badly that he collapsed in a panic
upon their flight. Those goddamn ducks.
You’d treat them very differently, of course.
Make yourself loud and big and strong and
run them off as the first twinge of tenderness
warmed you up. You simply wouldn’t
be able to resist the urge - and that’s why
I know you’d adore Tony. The idea,
no matter how fictional, of someone so cruel
being capable of love is intoxicating.
Those goddamn ducks, though, they
always make it South, on or off the screen.
WHO SAYS ROMANCE IS DEAD?
The back of a lovely flower delivery van:
splashes of purple, pink, red, yellow petals,
shop name printed in delicate green calligraphy,
a painstaking sign warning DELIVERING FLOWERS
on a strip of yellow and black lines like caution tape,
and a whopping dent below the right taillight, crushing
the word FLOWERS - the inevitable result of a rear-ending.
What series of events unfolded into such pointed destruction?
A jilted lover, perhaps, sent into a rage by the romance
of flower delivery services? A spouse scorned by
their partner’s infidelity signaled in flowers sent?
An anti-love industrial complex protester delivering
a righteous message? Or, in perhaps the most absurd of
twists, a collision of no special circumstance? Vehicles
meeting mostly by chance, with some distracted driving
at play? Who is to say? But, no matter the forces that led to
that dent, it is almost certain that the rear-ending driver left
with a decent story to tell at parties, armed with the perfect hook
“You won’t BELIEVE what I ran into once!”
Before I was born, my mother read my zodiac
to prepare herself for my approaching existence
She was told I would be a bit of a hoarder, a lover
of mementos, little dragon guarding her treasure trove
From then she started a memory box documenting
my being - hospital bracelets, dried up umbilical cord,
tufts of hair from a first haircut, baptism candle,
baby teeth, preschool art projects, cherished plushies -
and as was written in the stars, I took up the near
obsessive collection of all manifestations of memory
As a stockpiler of sentimentality, I’ve stored all
birthday cards, movie ticket stubs, deflated balloons,
free pins, seashells, field trip t-shirts, rubber bracelets,
journals half-written, blank, chock-full of doodles,
ramblings, dried-up leaves given in lieu of flowers, on
and on, every trinket imaginable that crossed my path
My prized trophies of personhood, irresistible
embodiments of keepsakes that cannot be kept,
tangible tokens engraved with every person I’ve ever
loved, every moment I’ve ever been alive.
WHAT WE HAVE IS THE DOG
When I was fifteen, my father finally gave in
to my pleading, agreed to get us a puppy for Christmas.
As we drove home with a shaking two-month old Maltese-Poodle mix in tow,
our car’s check engine light flashed on. He stopped
at the nearest parking lot to weigh our options - should
the car break down such that we would require assistance, the police
would almost certainly be involved. My father’s license, then expired
for over seven years, would immediately signal our alien
status, his deportation inexorably unspooling from car trouble. He decided
to go into the grocery store we were moored by, hopeful that in his absence
the car would recover. He returned with a chew toy the size of the puppy’s head,
took a deep breath, and turned on the car. That day was cemented as
one of happiest of my life when the check engine light disappeared
upon reignition and we arrived home without incident. For most
of my childhood I feared his involuntary removal, rejoiced at its every
obstruction. A fear that filled me turgid as a water balloon, filled me so
I couldn’t foresee the needle that would cause my bursting - his
voluntary uprooting, up and out of my life.
On a good month, we exchange words over the phone once,
mostly business - no one is sick, my job is okay, I can afford food. He is
fine. Money is always bad. In addition to backbreaking labor
for the company that made his life’s work obsolete, he recently
started driving for Uber. The part that is less business -
he always asks about the then-puppy, now nine-year old dog. That,
and the silences that prolong what passes as conversation between us.
On our latest call, after a particularly long pause, he throws out
a story: he picked up a customer who brought in a little poodle not
unlike mine, and it wouldn’t stop rowdily jumping around
in the back seat. He hadn’t realized that he accidentally
turned on a setting that indicated he was friendly to riders with pets. Though
he liked the little poodle, he turned off the setting, refusing
the possibility that a German Shepherd or, imagine, a snake could enter
his vehicle. A story so rooted in my dad that it got a giggle out of me, as it would
have years ago. What we have is the dog.
Leticia Priebe Rocha received her bachelor’s from Tufts University, where she was awarded the 2020 Academy of American Poets University & College Poetry Prize. Born in São Paulo, Brazil, she immigrated to Miami, FL at the age of 9 and resides in the Greater Boston area. Her work has been published in Rattle, Roi Fainéant Press, Arkana, Apricity Press, and elsewhere. She can be found on Twitter @LetiPriebeRocha and on Instagram @letiprieberochapoems.