“Sheltering” & “Learning to Eat a Mango” * Poetry * Katherine Szpekman


In her lust to comfort, she melts chocolate,
stirs the swirling velvet in hot butter.
These days are long. Why not write a sonnet
to brownies; she hears the glossy sputter.
Beats two eggs and sugar, pale and frothy,
sifts flour, salt and soda like fine sand.
Combines all; the batter smooth and sticky.
Licks the luscious darkness, upon her hands.
Bakes at 350 for half an hour.
The fragrance is maddening, but must cool.
Patience, in the memory of labor.
Dusts confectionery lace like French tuile.
These days are long. She shares sanctuary.
Sweetness soothes the frightened and the lonely.


Learning to Eat a Mango

I. Sink Mango

I didn’t know how to choose
a ripe mango back then;
so much I didn’t know
that I didn’t know.

So, when the stranger
at the open-air market stood
so close, I could smell
the garlic on her breath,

and thrust two mangos
into my open hands,
a huge smile on her face,
I accepted them.

A sink mango! she said.
A sink mango? I asked
Yes, so juicy, you eat
over the sink, she pantomimed.

She left me holding two
ripe, red mangos,
skin smooth and sticky;
pungent with a sweet citrus nectar.

I bent over the kitchen sink,
the juices dripped
through my fingers and down
my arms, chunks of flesh

filled my mouth, exquisite
fibers caught in my teeth.
I ate until all that remained
was the naked pit.

I sucked until the pale
thin stone appeared,
until spent.
Immediately, I wanted another.

II. Teething

All my babies teethed
on mango pits,
held the slippery stone with
bold, pudgy fingers.

Their bright red gums
clamped down on the orange fruit
like an old woman
without her dentures.

There, in the morning kitchen,
they kicked their bare toes, squealed;
the cool, sweet relief
of a sink mango.


—About the Author—

Katherine Szpekman lives in Connecticut with her family. Her poetry is forthcoming in the Connecticut Literary Anthology, and has appeared in Red Eft ReviewSky Island JournalMuddy River Poetry Review, Chestnut Review, Sheila-Na-Gig, Hiram Poetry Review, and others. She was awarded Honorable Mention in the Connecticut River Review Poetry Contest 2019.