Joan Leotta



Once a month on an

afternoon when my

dad worked night shift,

he’d pull up to my school in

his white Ford Thunderbird

at one, to fly downtown.

so the orthodontist could poke,

prod, and adjust the cacophony of

wires and metal bands

promising to shape

my teeth into a better smile.

By 2:30 it was over.

Dad would check his watch.

“Time for a donut?”

We headed to the swirly counter stools

of the Mayflower Coffee Shop.

Dad ordered coffee, and I hot chocolate.

Sour cream cake donut—

always his choice.

I vacillated between Boston Cream

and vanilla cake with chocolate icing.

One afternoon, after our donuts came,

I poured out a litany of all the day’s

wrongs – friends, studies.

“Why do I need a better smile, if

I have nothing to smile about?”

Dad sipped his coffee quietly.

When I finished, he pointed to the

ceramic mosaic behind the counter

with its iconic poem and read,

“Keep your eye

upon the donut, Joanie,

not upon the hole.”

Words to live by,

not just when eating donuts.



Joan Leotta plays with words on page and stage. Her poems have appeared in or are forthcoming in many journals including Hobocamp, Fourth River, The Ekphrastic Review, Silver Birch, and others. Her essays have been in Ovunque Siamo, The Italian-American, Eastern Iowa Review, Sasee, and others. Her articles and short stories are also widely published. On stage she performs personal and folk tales (often Italian tales) of food , family, and strong women.