Flavor Town USA: Three Poems by Jennifer Martelli

Flavor Town USA: Jennifer Martelli

We baked pearls made of denture material in a blueberry pie

—Efferdent Commercial

The first satisfaction is the fork breaking the flaky lattice crust.

No, I’ve misremembered this commercial:

the first satisfaction is this: the fork digs deep into the purple fruit filling,

doesn’t break the dough,

fishes deep down into the pie, the berries, and pulls

the strand of pearls—

and who would do this? string teeth-pearls on cotton thread?—pulls

slowly, bead by bead from the warm juice—

relieving as a tampon pulled from high up inside of you, as a cock

finally, dear god, pulled out. That is the second satisfaction.

The third is the tablet dissolving into a portmanteau of cleanliness—

effervescent and denture—in a tumbler of water. Those purple

blue and red-stained pearls lowered by the fork that pulled them

out of the pie, then bathed—and this is the fourth satisfaction—

cleaner than anything real.

If He Is My Man, He Is My Tomato* Was the Answer, Then What Was the Question?

Why haven’t you taken your husband’s name?

What is a love apple?

Has he paid his taxes?

What fruit is not native to Italy?

Who is Luca Brasi? John Gotti? Rocky Balboa? Robert DiBernardo? Vinny Barbarino?

What is a Roma, a San Marzano, a Better Boy, a Campari, a Moneymaker, a Black Krim?

Does your husband also support the murder of babies?

What fruit has meat and skin and bleeds?

Has your husband ever killed a man? Rented a room to a pornographer?

What would you like on your burger? What fruit’s bitterness is neutralized with sugar?

What of your husband’s father? What of your father, how did he die?

What fruit was too cold and wet for the Italians to swallow raw?

What does your God look like? Your priest? Your Pope? What is the nature of your God?

What is an Early Girl, a Tigerella, Three Sisters?

*Geraldine Ferraro, misquoted


For months now I’ve refused three types of flesh: from a cow, a pig, a fowl.

I’m not pure, though. I can’t resist cheese in its clotted shades: creamy knobbed

and knotted mozzarella, bone chévre, blue-veined bleu.

For X-mas, G. mailed me a tin of struffoli: small balls of fried dough drenched in honey,

sprinkled with candy beads. Sticky sweet gold drops on the tin lid.

The bees in the comb that made that honey, humped, and were smoked out of their hive: they

loved their queen left all baffled and alone. Someday

my kids may write about me—not a poem, but maybe a list of all the hurtful

seedlings I planted like radium in their glands. Maybe

they will remember some love too, though I was mostly afraid. G.’s cancer leaps

throughout her body. When I call to thank her, we talk about turmeric.

I ask her, as a vegan, would she wear pearls? The oyster, pried open for its hard

comforting spit, looks clitoral: the salty, faceless meat.

Jennifer Martelli is the author of My Tarantella (Bordighera Press), awarded an Honorable Mention from the Italian-American Studies Association, selected as a 2019 “Must Read” by the Massachusetts Center for the Book, and named as a finalist for the Housatonic Book Award. Her chapbook, After Bird, was the winner of the Grey Book Press open reading, 2016. Her work is forthcoming in Poetry and The Sycamore Review and, most recently, has appeared in Verse Daily, The DMQ Review, The Sonora Review, and Iron Horse Review (winner, Photo Finish contest). She is a two-time recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant in Poetry. She is co-poetry editor for Mom Egg Review and co-curates the Italian-American Writers Series at I AM Books in Boston.

Image: whatscookinitalianstylecuisine.com

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