The Order of Things (Before Francesca) – Felicia Sanzari Chernesky

Whenever I fall asleep at the dinner table

I dream of falling asleep at the table

where Grampa Carrozza lifts a kitchen tumbler

of Carlo Rossi table wine to give          

his blood-red blessing over macaroni    

after mass; two tender meatballs each,

a spoon of freshly grated cheese like snow

atop slow-simmered gravy and bracciole.

And by the time we kids are stuffed and praised

for cleaning our plates and Auntie Phyllis serves

the garden greens and carrot shavings tossed

with oil and salt and glossy pitted olives

directly on our sauce-stained dinner dishes,

“Pop” and Uncle Tony finally turn

from FDR and social security

to hurling names like LBJ and Nixon

past our masticating mouths, while Dad,  

the son-in-law, the table’s college grad,

a lion back at home, but here a lamb,

just nods and drags a crusty buttered slice

of semolina bread across the oil

and red wine vinegar lacing his dish.

I steal a glance at Mom, whose hands are busy

calming fussy baby number three,

and one by pungent one pick out and hide

the salad’s onion slivers on my plate

inside a deftly crumpled paper napkin.

Then like my cousins and sleepy little sister,

sighing, I lean back and wonder what’s

dessert before I doze.

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Felicia Sanzari Chernesky is a longtime editor, slowly publishing poet, and author of six picture books, including From Apple Trees to Cider, Please! and The Boy Who Said Nonsense (Albert Whitman & Company). In 2018 she moved away from the masthead of an academic quarterly to work with people who want to share their stories, ideas, and poems in print. Her fiction has been nominated for a 2021 Pushcart Prize and Best Microfiction Award. She lives with her family in Flemington, New Jersey. Find her online at www.feliciachernesky.com