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Emily Decker

Theme on a Pink Geranium

I was standing in front of the peppers with a cart full of $4.99 pink geraniums when I heard the whistling. I knew the melody (a movie theme?) but couldn’t place the title. It got louder until it stopped beside me, at the cucumbers and parsley. I was holding a bag of shishitos, and the whistler was an old man who seemed more cheerful than his tune (what was it?).

You must have been standing here a long time to have plants growing from your cart, he said. I chuckled as I continued considering the peppers. Oh, I’ve been here for ages. He tipped his head, pleased at my response, and wandered toward the citrus, whistling again. It wasn’t until I spotted him in the bakery near a pyramid of cannolis that I remembered: Ah. The Godfather. I suddenly wanted to ask him why. Why the love theme from The Godfather in a Harris Teeter on a Thursday morning? But I didn’t see-slash-hear him again until I was standing in the checkout line. He was walking through the sliding exit doors, still whistling, with a pink geranium in one arm.

Racoon in Daylight

We startled each other, but she was more willing to hold

our gaze. It was afternoon after all, and she looked sick

with her tufted rust-brown fur striped with mange,

her right paw raised in a half-wave and half-halt salute.

We stood apart, frozen like three figures in a tryptic,

unsure of whether to step into the other’s landscape.

There was talk of rabies and buck shot.

Nothing good comes before dark in this case.

I wondered if she was playing with the light, testing out

the changing warmth between the tree trunks

and overgrown underbrush. So, we walked on.

Darkness would come soon enough, and with it, who knows?

Drowsy owls and red foxes, or a night when you and I might

choose to stay within each other’s reluctance to look away.

The Mango Tree

The day I found snake skins

on my swing,

draped like discarded clothes

thrown on the bed,

I was told I couldn’t play in it anymore.

The mambas, shedding and cranky,

had taken over my tree.

That season, I stayed near the veranda

as the branches started to bend

with their ripening fruit,

sagging like arms

stretching to touch toes.

We picked mangoes carefully, alert

for a darting flash

of bright green

against black bark

and sage-colored leaves.

I decided the mambas had left,

leaving behind their skins

and S-shaped signatures in the dirt.

But I was still told to stay away, so I did,

except for one day.

Toting two Barbies and a picnic,

I climbed into the Y halfway up the trunk.

There were noises—my brother crying,

the thump of coconuts hitting the ground.

I heard the wind in the leaves.

When I felt the sting, sharp and burning,

I laid my dolls side by side,

rigid and staring up at the light

piercing the canopy.

I looked down at a lone ant

crawling past my ankle

and a red welt swelling

on my toe.

Once I’d gathered my dolls and jumped, I looked up:

one silky skin,

caught on the knotted branch

above my swing,

fluttered in the breeze.


Emily Decker is a former teacher and communications director turned freelance writer and editor who lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Her poetry has appeared in Yellow Arrow Journal and Full Bleed, and she is currently working on her first collection of poems.


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