I’ve just moved into the house
down the street from Little India.
Unpacking a box of knickknacks,
I look up and see the girl standing
in my front yard. She might be
eight or nine, her hair a braid of black
reaching past her waist. I watch
from my window behind
the magnolia tree as she kneels
beside the hot pink geranium,
her fingers grasping its flower to pluck.
I could be the mean neighbor lady,
Don’t pick my flowers little girl.
Or the woman with a lesson to teach,
If you’d like a flower, ask first;
I’ll snip you one.
Or scissors in hand, I could
appear outside, Let me cut
the flower for you, the geranium
passing from my hand to hers.
Or to do nothing and let the flower
be hers to take.
Looking around and up,
she spies me behind the glass
before I can step away.
Her hand darts back and she’s
running for home, her braid
dividing the air between us.
On Nights When I Can’t Sleep
Ripped out of the boiled
chicken, the wishbone lies
on the window sill, protected
from hands and grinding
blades. Moist meat chewed off,
the bone hardens and waits.
What I want isn’t here.
Still I remove the wishbone,
as my fingers always throw
spilled salt over my shoulder. Nights
later, the wishbone remembered
on the ledge by the black can
of tea: My fingers grip
the crooked ends. I close my eyes
and make the same wish twice.
(Originally published in the Santa Barbara Review.)
I swam in rum punch,
slept under a mosquito net.
I was thirteen—
the hyphen between child and adult.
I told him I was seventeen.
I had been waiting for him that summer,
an island where rain-forest moss met sand.
He was twenty-five
with a glass-bottom boat
where I lay watching fish
swimming in and out of their coral caves.
Tearing aloe’s leaf in half,
he spread its clear jell
green across my shoulders
burned red by fire’s sun.
He led me wading into warm waters.
Capturing my bikini bottoms in his hand,
he submerged himself, then swam away—
all he had come with still intact.
I tried a shortcut home
through brambles that scratched my legs,
stopped by a fence that kept me
from where my parents slept.
I broke the leaf in half
spread aloe’s green
up my thighs to the burning,
stopping short of my now
inside out bathing suit.
(Originally published in Red Wheelbarrow.)
LeeAnn Pickrell lives in Oakland ,
California , where she works as a freelance editor. She writes
poetry and prose, and her work has appeared in various journals,
including the Atlanta Review, Red River Review, Birmingham
Poetry Review, Open Window III from Ghost Road Press, Slant, and
SoMa Literary Review. One of her poems was nominated for a