Two by Leanna Petronella


Your green eyes are butterflies. Your long eyelashes are their trillion legs. “Foom foom,” I say, flapping my hands at your head.

We will marry soon! I will wear my mother’s ring!

Sometimes I look at you and try to make you strange. If a lemon is yellow’s bumpy eyeball, if a banana is a comma in sunlight’s long sentence, if a corncob is rows and rows of teeth wrapped around the beehive’s emptied bone – then you are just some man sitting next to me. I toy with that terror.

It’s almost summer here in Texas. I am going mad with bluebonnets, as I do every spring. The fields measle so suddenly. It seems like a warning, and I struggle with it, blue’s unloosed rage against its careful white spots.  

And I love the long unfolding of an image, how it flips and flips. I love to bouncy-house myself until I popcorn out the world. See the clouds that I make? I oil and salt them. Their kernels are copper umbilici, they crunch between my teeth.  

And I want to witch out, slamming stars with my broom. Can you hold this, my need to rumble with myself? Will you love me when I return, covered in straw and snouts, will you brush off my mud as I tell you about it?  

In bed, I nuzzle you with an old teddy bear. I lug my cat towards your face until she meows unhappily into your chin. I nudge your armpit like I am trying to crawl inside you, and what is it that I need, that I am looking for?

Your nephew understands. Five-year-old piglet, ringleted, sunny, he tapdances stuffed animals on your head and shrieks as you pretend not to notice. Curled in your lap, he idly pulls your beard. Sweet elf, romping chunk, I want to mother him and also be him, laying my head on your shoulder. What a toffee pull of shame, this tender confusion. 

Here comes the dog! He throws his body against you and starts licking your face. Your nephew pokes an elephant’s soft trunk into your ear. You drown in dog, nephew, and toys, and why do I love this, your trampling? 

Pull me down again, love. I float high above. I’m trying to measure the distance: between myself and my mind, between my heart and yours, between terror and comfort and peace. I won’t do this calmly: I hear hooves latch for no reason to feet. Such a thunder to chase! Then I crash back to you, where was I, oh I know. What I’ll try to remember: all flowers need stems. Is it barrier or bridge, the connection from roots to bright opened heads?

The bluebonnets are in their field. Their bones peek through, getting fresher and whiter. 

The green sea of your eyes. Whose legs kick up, who flew too close to the sun? I could melt across the sky with you. I think we can take it with us: the leap and the paint, the honey taste of wax, the gold rings that outline your pupils. I float among longings. I could get somewhere, all taut with horizon.

One Good Push

When my friend was in high school, her boyfriend built her a robot. It was a prom-posal. The silver arm extended from her locker, the invitation clenched between its pincers. I can see her, fiddling with the lock, expecting only her usual private mess. Then the mechanic whirr, her startled gasp, the sharp arm reaching towards her. I guess the boy peered over her shoulder, memorizing her locker combination. I guess he measured the locker’s width and made the robot to fit inside. I never got a robot, but when I was twelve, my pediatrician told me I had child-bearing hips. I never got a robot, but once I had a pet rabbit, whom I sang to, who liked to hump my bunny slippers, popping pink against my toes. And what did they do with the robot for the rest of the day? Did my friend lug it around in her arms, jiggling to hush its spastic motion? Did the boy show it off in the lunchroom, cheering as it rolled uncertainly across the floor? It gets cuter and cuter in my mind. And then after the proposal: “I made this for you,” the boy says. “You can keep it.” I never got a robot, but I wonder about the distance between locker and floor, the crash of shattered metal. I never got a robot, but what girl hasn’t held that door open, deciding. When they go to prom, the girl dances like a cornfield, her blonde hair caught in the sky’s blue chewing mouth.


Leanna Petronella’s debut poetry collection, The Imaginary Age, won the 2018 Pleiades Press Editors Prize. Her poetry appears in Beloit Poetry Journal, Third Coast, Birmingham Poetry Review, CutBank, Quarterly West, and other publications. Her fiction appears in Drunken Boat, and her nonfiction appears in Brevity and Hayden’s Ferry Review. She holds a PhD in English and Creative Writing from the University of Missouri and an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas. She lives in Austin, Texas.