For Petra, Who Joins the Family

Petra dreams that chimneys topping buildings on her street are men who watch as she brings child home. Petra dreams she strangles child & that she can feel this as child feels it, warm hands on shoulder & then on neck.

Petra wakes, hears the sound of TV downstairs. Keith isn’t in bed. She has bitten her cheek inside & it grows hard & angry. He will never have children because type two diabetes makes his sperm swim slow. Because he cannot have children, he has guns. Petra remembers waking in their house early married when he brought her milk in bed. She pretended

She had not woken, stretched sexy, made herself dawn eyed. When he came in she took his milk like a child.


Three years after 1990 the Toginallis moved in next door & had a baby girl & reared her. They named her Dalia but called her Angel. Mother thinks Mr. Toginalli would have died for the country but Petra knows &

The neighborhood knows it was an accident a silly bloody thing that made his wife fear him & Angel rove. They have five arms between them, then three. Liz’s voice when she leaves reflects like wind in the backyard. Petra watches the Toginalli girl cross into the Alvin house years after. She knows it is for the boy who lives in the house in the middle & says not a word to anyone.

Petra dreams that the Alvin boy kisses Keith wetly with his lip, their eyes connected by a strand of blue.


Petra wakes up wanting to lie on the beach. For a while she feels stupid for imagining a bad thing then remembers this is a neighborhood full of deep game & people who want things.

The Alvin boy has become a particular concern of the community but Petra knows that he is in all respects a man & offers nothing. They are not as alone as she could ever be. Keith buys a car seat for the baby shower. Petra knows to herself it is he who fathered the Toginalli bastard & hates him no more or less. Mother tells Petra not to mind guns in the house

For there are sacrifices you make for men. It rained too much this fall & summer, made all the caulking run.


Petra walks in the wheat fields at the base of town & plays with the textures of grass in her hands. In winter, when it does not snow, grass freezes & the wheat grows thin & you can see through it a man standing twenty yards

Away. She dreams she cannot distinguish the backyard & the front yard in springtime, misplaces the Seeds. Petra knows a more destructive & open thing than Keith waking up before her making her feel dear. It seems that this follows her all her life. She cannot put name or face to it and she waits for it not to matter here in the town.

Petra knows what Angel offers & in silence agrees to take the baby. Petra wonders how old she is this year & knows thirty years between them.


Birth is hard on the body of an eighteen year old. It is no surprise, as Petra says to Mother, that Angel D. Toginalli leaves soon after the birth but it is cruel that she leaves her father unable to tie his own shoes with no

Place to go. Petra takes the baby out of her body & names him Kiss for his fathers. Petra lies down to masturbate that first night but falls asleep. She dreams about the sound of television & about falling asleep in Keith’s lap when they would watch their shows together. She does not spend a lot of time looking at the baby because she cannot believe that he is hers. She buys herself a new crib refuses the one from the shower (not like

Anyone offers) & puts it by the rack Keith left behind, the warmest part of the house. She goes up late at night three times to find what she left there still there.

Isa Alvin begins to visit the house without entering, touches Petra with his hands across the yard. Petra knows what happens in his attic, watches how he watches the only photo he has left of the Toginalli girl & does not


Know what a baby is or how to make one. Mother says men should have proper men’s names. Petra bathes her & wipes her feces & changes the baby & wipes. She wonders if when Keith returns he will want anything to drink in the kitchen, like lemonade with sugar & imagines asking him to kiss her lips sighing

Kiss me. She wonders what lazy sex feels like with a twenty one year old. She watches Isa mourn & bends over for him before the window.


Petra only has milk in her cart at the supermarket, but three kinds, skim for her, whole for mother, sweet for Kiss the baby. Grace Alvin shops organic, buys no snacks but lots of brown eggs. The aisles seem wonderfully long

& welcoming, lit up like a stage. Isn’t motherhood wonderful, Petra almost says. Grace Alvin’s eyes well so wide she looks always bewildered. Petra you are glowing. You needed a new man in your life. You must have one. In the paper products aisle Grace takes two-ply & Petra asks Grace if she remembers which brand of diapers were her favorite at the time & regrets it immediately for

Grace looks at her & does not answer. All mothers want newborns forever, Petra says & her chest dances & fills.


Keith calls when Petra is with the baby. Petra hears in his message that Keith will come & hold her for the last time. He will hold her tight when it is the last time. He says he is coming to the door & Petra says it down the stairs to Mother who says nothing back.

Petra dreams of warm hands on shoulder & then on neck. Kissing Keith was always that way, his body pooling around her. She puts the baby in the crib & kisses him so they will know. When Keith comes home Petra lets her hand fall lax on the doorknob & knows he has not come alone. It is springtime; Petra does not know what year. A bird flies into the window. She hopes that he will kiss her before she goes.

She wipes the edges of her lips with a tissue. Thinking of wheat grass in winter Petra slowly opens the door.  

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