In the days when I wrote shorts stories
and still didn't know how dreadful they were,

when I used the real names of everyone 
I knew, I could not imagine

anything other than how they dressed,
what they ate, and why they did the expected.

And I didn't notice across the river
and overcast afternoon in Manhattan, or see

the girl who's taken to the children's bookstore
where her favorite author signs his latest work.

Her mother, who's recently divorced
and would never describe herself as impulsive

discovers she's attracted to the man,
and while afterward her daughter pretends

to examine the displays of books, the woman
invites him to their apartment for dinner.

The shop where this will happen is small
but well situated, filling steady orders

from the private schools that seem to be 
on every other block. The girl, who's seven

and still loves being read to, is in her room
that looks across to Riverside Park. 

A wall calendar reads 1980,
which seems right for the styles of dresses

hanging in her closet, or the pink
record player that sits in one corner

and is living on borrowed time. In the kitchen
she has to be told more than once to eat lunch,

but she is thinking about later, and while
she isn't sure what will happen at the bookshop,

she dreams of discouraging clouds 
which shadow the other children,

that rain will punish their beautiful mothers,
though none as beautiful as hers,

and she can see―seated at a table,
fountain pen in his long fingers

and waiting patiently, the handsome prince
whose story she will write without my help.

Copyright © 2013 David Petruzelli. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Spring 2013.