Mustang Bagel

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)
More Poems by Kiki Petrosino