Stopping to Let the Catholics Cross North Street in Salem by Jennifer Martelli

as they spilled out of Saturday Mass, I saw a family raking leaves from their small front yard: mother, father, and a young daughter about nine who sat on the curb with her DS or smartphone. The fallen leaves would call for one, maybe two more rakings before they’d be gone for another year with the old orange streamers, the sugar skulls, the candy corn. The father had one of the girl’s band-aids on his forehead: I couldn’t tell which character, but it was pink, maybe there was a princess on it, or a kitty. The mom bent to drag the mound of leaves into the mouth of the brown sack, which tipped overstuffed, spilling all wet ocher across the little girl’s shins and feet. When the mother stood, she looked right at me, through my passenger window with something that was not a smile but pulled her mouth back and showed her teeth. She had a fresh scar, a maroon L, on her forehead, below her hairline and above her brow, bigger than a band-aid could cover. The girl was on the curb with her head parallel to her flat game. And then the Catholics crossed, and I drove through Salem.

Candy in the street–
An old mask, a soft pumpkin—
Drove over it all.

Jennifer Martelli’s poetry and prose have appeared in Green Mountains Review, Vector Press, and forthcoming in [pank]. She is a recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant in Poetry and an associate editor for The Compassion Project. Her first full-length poetry manuscript, The Uncanny Valley, was published in 2016.