Sunday 11 February 2024

Three Poems & One Prose Poem by Joan Leotta


Detente: On Discovering a Spider This Morning


Small black spot on

our white bathroom floor tile.

Twist of hair? Speck of dirt?

No, spindly legs are moving.

I drop a clean tissue on it.

Suddenly the dot scurries

under our vanity’s

quarter round trim. Now

revealed is spots true self:

a small black spider.


Perhaps, you think

I have now befriended him.

No. Although I realize he

is likely not committed

to my extermination, and

that he likely eats dust mites

and other “awfuls”

who invade my home,

the answer is still N-O.


I am so allergic to spider bites

that should he strike out

even by accident, it is

the hospital or worse for me.

However, I am reluctant

to spray him into oblivion.

So, in our détente, I now

wear slippers into that room,

look carefully before

reaching into the under sink

dark corners, or the back of

our vanity’s drawers.


I promise not to strike out at him

as long as he promises the same.



Learning to Live Free--Swahili Lesson, 1967


The first Swahili word I learned

was uhuru. I heard our Kenyan hostess

tell  another passenger

“Nairobi’s  main street

is called UHURU now.

The word means Freedom.”

As the plane winging me

to Nairobi banked before

descending, I gasped at

the beauty of the image of steel

spires of skyscrapers  rising

up from a green mass

of trees (this was before

the great droughts and just a few

years after Kenya’s independence).

The plane continued gliding

downward, and I determined

to try to stay on that street, Uhuru.

The rolling sound of uhuru

resonated with me--

at age nineteen,

traveling alone in Africa,

I also felt the exhilaration

of being free –in my case

from parents and professors.

I felt as one with this young Kenyan

capitol, a city that signalled its embrace of

freedom, by naming the

main street, Uhuru.

Later I learned to say,

“hello, goodbye, thank you”

in Swahili, but truly it is

for this one word, uhuru, that

I will always love Nairobi.


The Thin White Line on my Knee: a Reminder

Prose Poem 

by Joan Leotta 

A ghost of a thin white line stretches across my right patella seventy years after I slipped off the steel ribbed radiator. It happened om a Saturday morning and Dad was leaving for work. After Mom went back upstairs I was alone in the kitchen. As always, I wanted to wave goodbye to my beloved Dad for as long as possible so I would scramble up onto the radiator so I could see out of the small high window and watch my Dad for a longer time. Up was easy. It was the sliding down, that was the problem.

My mother had forbidden the climb, and although I was a fairly compliant child, it seemed irrational to obey mother who, each week, when she left me alone downstairs ordered, in fact insisted, “no climbing on the radiator,” and if I objected, she replied with “no arguing, I’m the Mom.”

I balanced my mother’s words against what seemed a very good thing to me-- climbing so I could continue waving until Daddy’s car was out of my sight. So, after Mom left the kitchen, I, as usual, climbed up. Although I’d often performed this maneuver quite safely on other Saturdays, that day the radiator ripped and slashed open my knee. Yes, that particular Saturday my dismount left me writhing on the floor.

Startled by the blood poured out of my knee and in pain, I screamed. Mom came running down the steps and into the kitchen. She put a cloth on my new, cold, cool, and then in an agitated voice called the doctor. He came immediately. He carried me upstairs, stopped the bleeding

stitched the skin over my patella back together.

Then, dear Doctor McVey, instead of handing me the usual single Life Saver candy “good patient” reward gave me the entire pack for “being so brave.”

That thin, straight, white line still twinges occasionally on rainy days, reminding me, not to avoid taking chances but simply to plan a little better before taking on radiators or other sharp objects. After all, even risking the wrath and wreckage of a steel rib slicing the knee and its subsequent pain and scar is a great reminder that even worthwhile bravery carries a cost.



Yesterday I Killed It


Yesterday, I drowned my friend, “Little Blue.”

It was an accident, I swear.

You can judge for yourself:

Not wanting to lug my phone

“synched” to my health and calorie apps, I

purchased a sky-blue pedometer

which slid easily into pants/shirt pocket.

At night I manually added its step count

to my higher -tech phone calculations.

Unfortunately, yesterday while

scrambling to finish a dozen tasks at once,

I noticed a stain on my pants,

quickly stripped, sprayed the stain,

then tossed the pants into our washer

with the towels.

Minutes later, I realized “little blue”

was not in my pocket. By then

our washer was already

dutifully sloshing clothes and towels

in surges of hot water and soap.

Pressing pause I felt around, retrieved

my tiny blue, blinking, friend.

Poor little thing blinked and blinked:

7777, then 888

Alas, those 8s were the last numbers it spoke.

So, you see, it was an accident.

I truly do want to be more mindful

of my calories, of what I eat and do.

Now, some steps will remain uncounted

but thanks to my dearly departed

friend, I’m also now more mindful

of what I do, when and while doing it.

Thanks, and rest in peace, “little blue.”

Joan Leotta is a writer and story performer. plays with words on page and stage. She performs tales of food, family, strong women on stages across the country and in Europe. Internationally published as an essayist, poet, short story writer, and novelist,  she’s a two-time Pushcart nominee, twice Best of the Net nominee, and a 2022 runner-up in Robert Frost Competition. Her essays, poems, CNF, and fiction appear in Impspired, Lothlorien, Ekphrastic Review, Verse Visual, Verse Virtual, Gargoyle, Silver Birch, Yellow Mama, Mystery Tribune, Synkroniciti, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Pure Slush, and others.  Her poetry chapbooks are Languid Lusciousness with Lemon, (Finishing Line) and  Feathers on Stone, (Main Street Rag).


Joan Leotta
Author, Story Performer
“Encouraging words through Pen and Performance”

Twice Nominated for Pushcart and Best of Net 

"Feathers on Stone" poetry chapbook available from me and at

Other Joan Leotta Books

Languid Lusciousness with Lemon, Finishing Line Press (Amazon)

Morning by Morning and Dancing Under the Moon, two free mini-chapbooks are at 

For information on my four out of print novels, collection of short stories and four children's  picture books, contact me at this email 


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