Joan Leotta


My childhood lawn was a wonderland

of grasses, clover, and dandelion.

I watched them flourish

in the wild place behind my swing set

where nothing was sprayed or mowed.

I liked to see them

play with the sun until their green buds

became yellow manes with collars

of Dragon’s Tooth leaves.

When he pronounced them “ready,”

my father showed me how to carefully dig

out each lion from its dirt cage

for their important uses.

He stripped leaves for salad,

dried roots for tea,

and clipped off the flowers,

which he gave to Uncle Bill

who would press them

into dandelion wine.

But one small pride of lions,

manes full and yellow,

Dad left in the ground

“for their most important use.”

When yellow manes turned white, 

my father plucked one,

and, together, with just

a hint of our breath,

we freed those whitened bits,

sending each one out

into the sky, transforming

whitened mane into a wish.

Joan Leotta plays with words on page and stage. Her poetry, short stories, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in North Carolina Literary Review, Red Wolf, Ovunque Siamo, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, Silver Birch, The Ekphrastic Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, and others all over the globe. Joan’s first poetry chapbook, Languid Lusciousness with Lemon, is out from Finishing Line Press. Her performances include person and folklore presentations featuring food, family, travel, and strong women.