“Lamps” by Kathryn Petruccelli

Kathryn Petruccelli


My mother used to tell me
there was a time
she kept a closet full of lamps
so whenever one of her kids
broke one, she’d sweep up
and pull another out.

I imagine her trolling
the Saturday morning garage sales
of the ’70s, buying every cheap,
ugly thing that lit, handing over a dollar,
50 cents, maybe haggling them down
to a quarter. A woman with a stockpile
of light sources at the ready
while her children flipped
like gymnasts through the living room:

my brother leaping for all he was worth
toward the old brown sectional,
the rug underneath a hot pit of lava;
my sister’s dance moves a sensation
before the crowd was stunned to silence
in the wake of a tragic mishap with the coffee table.
Mom could have told them to stop, but
she knew that sometimes you need Disaster
to strike, to cut yourself until you bleed
and everything goes dark.

At our house, Disaster walked through
the front door as familiar as spring mud.
We set it a place at the table
and after its belly stretched taut,
sent it on its way and got back down
to business. Some days you landed
your backflip. Some days you didn’t.
I can still see her: a widow
with a penchant for the practical,
holding an end table model
with off-white shade, its copper base
molded in the form of an eagle,
cord dangling, her hand
gripping the bird by the throat.

from Rattle #61, Fall 2018


Kathryn Petruccelli: “Often, for me, writing poetry is like having my finger on the replay button in the gentlest, most curious way. What happened there? What does what happened remind me of? I find myself thinking about how I can bind images and memories together so that the net is stronger and at some point, in some lifetime, I can rest in them, like in a hammock, and finally exhale. I started writing ‘Lamps’ after the last election, when I was trying to rally my spirits. It’s satisfying that one of those blasted, ubiquitous eagles from the decade of the U.S. bicentennial finally came in handy.” (web)

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