Into Prantl’s, on Walnut Street,
through the sudden scrim of snow,
an ancient white-haired couple hunches.
Dusk of Pittsburgh frigid winter,
enough to freeze the rivers,
after hours of rare exquisite sun,
now vanished for another score of days,
yet still firing in the icicles
depended from the bakery awning –
the hour the very old appear to fetch sweets
swathed in silver tissue laid
in white boxes latched with string.
The woman holds the man’s arm.
He wears a gold cap,
she a gold scarf, like a babushka,
about her head – their kind faces
scrubbed clean by the 20th Century.
So small, they smile, so aged,
almost frightening, they pluck numbers
and enter the long queue.
The bakery is warm, blinding,
glass cases of cream puffs, éclairs,
lady locks, Napoleons,
French doughnuts, meringue –
the glory of unbridled desire,
confections of the living.
JOSEPH BATHANTI is a former poet laureate of North Carolina. He is the author of eight books of poetry, including Concertina, winner of the Roanoke-Chowan Award. His latest novel is The Life of the World to Come. He teaches at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.