Mustang Bagel

By Kiki Petrosino b. 1979 Kiki Petrosino
Even at my favorite coffeeshop downtown, Redford
is a hard man to feed. This morning, he picks
at his Grilled Asiago Mastercrust with a slow, disdainful frown.
Could they spare the fromage on this so-called "treat?"
He takes a sip of hazelnut coffee, then winces delicately
into the neck of his sweater vest. I bite powerfully
through my Cinnamon Frenchroll: Well, if you really don't think
you got enough—"fromage"—you should just go back up there
& tell the girl. I start on Redford's coffee while he looks glumly
at the metal napkin dispenser. Just then, the electric chime
above the door sounds. A man sweeps in & rests
his guitar case on one of the slim       café chairs.
His dark hair is arranged in a series of perpetually
break wavefronts. A small muscle jumps in his jaw
as he orders a Cinnamon Frenchroll, toasted, with cream cheese.
I lean foward, jabbing Redford with my plastic coffee wand.
Check out that guy over there I say. Intense.
Redford shrugs. I think he's Irish I say, watching the man bite
into his bagel. The instrument case hovers on the chair edge.
He could have a guitar in there, or else—a sword from the Crusades.
I press my tongue into the square-shaped hole in the lid
of my coffee cup. Listen Redford says. If we're going to be together
you have to take this. He pushes a small velvet box across the table.
What are you doing? I ask, but Redford doesn't answer.
He just looks down at the table, one hand pressed
to each of his temples. In the box is a square of chocolate
like the top of a signet ring, smooth, but edged
in something bright. It's smoked salt from Wales, Redford says.
Handmade in limited quantities. I turn the little box
in my hands. The salt sparkles like an arctic church.
I have to blink against it all.

Kiki Petrosino, "Mustang Bagel" from Fort Red Border. Copyright © 2009 by Kiki Petrosino.  Reprinted by permission of Sarabande Books, Inc..

Source: Fort Red Border (Sarabande Books, 2009)

 Kiki  Petrosino


Poet Kiki Petrosino was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the daughter of an African American mother and an Italian American father. She earned a BA from the University of Virginia, an MA in humanities from the University of Chicago, and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is the author of Fort Red Border (2009) and Hymn for the Black Terrific (2013).
Fort Red Border—the title is an anagram of “Robert Redford”—addresses . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poems by Kiki Petrosino

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.