I don’t know how long he’s been trying
to maneuver his friend into the waiting cab.
The door is hanging open, illuminating
the cab driver’s patient face as the drunk man
walks instead into the street, his voice too loud,
gesturing with both hands, though
he doesn’t seem to be talking to his
friend, or the people clustered around
the entrance to the pub, smoking, or to me,
on my way home from your apartment.
The bakery has been closed for hours
so I am surprised by movement inside,
by the sight of a man in a white apron
leaning forward to catch clumps of dough
as they emerge from the end of what looks like
an industrial-size mixer. All those afternoons
ago, my little brother used to sit in the sunlight
on the kitchen counter and help my mother
grind applesauce or mix bread dough, his head bent,
the fine hair on the back of his neck golden in the light.
The next time, I leave your apartment well
after 2, and the air outside the bakery is fragrant
with the scent of fresh bread. The spheres of dough
from the other night have all been caught, and the
man in the apron is opening a wide oven door
and pulling out loaves and loaves of bread.
Earlier, you drank a lot of wine and held
both my hands in your hands; you kissed me
and said, “You’re so beautiful.” The man in the bakery turns
and catches me watching him through the glass, and I freeze,
embarrassed. But he only smiles, and I smile back—grateful
for warm bread and this life and you, love, every day for you—and walk on.
Leah Browning is the author of three nonfiction books for teens and pre-teens (Capstone Press) and two chapbooks: Picking Cherries in the Española Valley (Dancing Girl Press, 2010) and Making Love to the Same Man for Fifteen Years (Big Table Publishing, 2009). Browning’s fiction, poetry, essays, and articles have previously appeared in a variety of publications including Queen’s Quarterly, 42opus, Blood Orange Review, and Tipton Poetry Journal, as well as on a broadside from Broadsided Press, on postcards from the program Poetry Jumps Off the Shelf, and in several anthologies. In addition to writing, Browning serves as editor of the Apple Valley Review. Her personal website is located at http://www.leahbrowning.com.