PoetryIssue 14 | February 2012

Two poems by Mary Kovaleski Byrnes

Christmas Emotion Salad

Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Whoever translated the menu at Twin Peaks Restaurant
understood kung-fu action heroes
should not be digested. Chicken Jerk Jackie Chan’s so hot
and raucous it’ll smoke your eyes out and make you want
to smash the table with your fist.
No one would notice if we did—
too many bra-less college girls on the dance floor, getting ogled
by the rusty accordion players from Folk Band Sinatra.

Tonight I’ll have the Christmas Emotion Salad.
Our indifferent, saucy waiter, Dmitri, delivers
peppers roasted in a terracotta oven,
cheese thick and provincial, loamy
nutmegged beets. This taste is a bread-warm house
where my grandmother waits at the end of each year,
getting ready for her descendants to invade. We’re always hungry

for her cookies and hamburgs, want to wash our gullets
again with the rush of hoof-prints
in a new-dawn snow, sink our teeth into the immortality
of the plastic tinseled tree. I want her to leave it
up all year. I want this taste
on my tongue all night: the flavor
of what just spent a whole life
plump and round in the earth like a heart.

The man I’m with has a Neverneverland
voice and eyes like lilycelery.  He’s devouring
his Meat with Mother-in-Law’s Tongue.
For dessert we’ll nibble a Cake for Persons in Love—
drink enough Valley of Roses Merlot to go back warm

through the icy streets to our hotel,
stumble a little and hold onto each other’s coats,
get a little frisky on the elevator,
make out in a corner of the rooftop bar.
Try each other out like items we discovered
at a flea market—familiar and worn,
valued because we were alone.
In the morning, we’ll drink coffee over scrambled eggs,
pretend we don’t feel anything
but a sweet headache from the wine.

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About the author

Mary Kovaleski Byrnes lives in Arlington, Massachusetts, but doesn’t stay put for very long. She has worked in a restaurant in New Zealand, studied language and cooking in Italy, and has recently returned from a poetry translation project in Andalucía, Spain. You can find her poetry in Minnetonka Review, Poets & Artists, and Silk Road, or her travel writing on Boston.com’s Passport.

Read our current issue:

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Two poems by Anne Babson
Vignette, Townhouse, 9 a.m. by Troy Cunio
Night Becomes Day Over the West by Megan Foley
Yukon River Aurora by D. B. Goman
Two Poems by David Havird
Cretan Love Letter by Emily Linstrom
Holland by Rick Mullin
Fear in Kenya by Kristina Pfleegor
The Lounge Lizard by Ed Shacklee
Two Poems by Sarah J. Sloat
Night Flight by Vicki Stannard
Koinonia Farms by Alina Stefanescu
Thessaloniki, Four a.m. by Anastasia Vassos
Imaginary Oceans by Jason Warren
Two Poems by F. J. Williams

Postcard prose

It’s Salty by Kelly Hill

Travel notes

Anchorage in the Great Land by Karen Benning
The Value of Small Money by Megan Hallinan
Screensaver by Sandra Larson
Thirty Cents by Tommy McAree
Gokarna by Kate McCahill
Going Places by Rachel Miller-Howard
Susanville CA: Notes From The Road by Susan Volchok