“One Escaped” and Other Poems, by Joan Leotta

In L’Aquila Italy in 2007— near my father’s hometown the mountains of the Abruzzo Region of Italy, I learned that this area was home to antiquity’s Sabine women! This poem began to form…..

One Escaped

Likely my great-great and more grandmother
was peacefully watching her grazing sheep 
with her sister, cousins, and friends, when

quiet mountain afternoon became hell as
Roman legionnaires leapt out from behind
rocks, slung the women over their shoulders

carried them down the steep hills
into rough camps these sons of Romulus
tying them to posts until all could go to Rome.

Moaning and crying, her sisters, cousins, friends
called out for their fathers, brothers, uncles
to come and rescue them.

Not my grandmother. She challenged 
her sisters to leave with her, 
“we can secure our own escape.”

When at last the fire’s embers burned small
and the legionnaires laid on the ground 
in stupor from drink and brawls,

Grandma wriggled out of the fetters 
on her slender wrist,
disappeared into the forest, 
up the mountain.
Her bare feet knew the rocky pathways
Her sheep bleated, ran with her.  
She climbed until at last

she came to a small Sabine village 
and eventually married a man of her choice.
Those others who stayed, made sons for Rome.

Eons later, Grandma’s son
descended the mountain, crossed the sea, 
married a Calabrian woman; fathered me.


Smell of the Hunter Moon

Is there a word for the scent of the moon,
like petrichor for the scent of rain?
Astronauts record it as odor of cordite or ash
after a campfire’s extinguished.
Yesterday, I stepped onto porch
to admire Hunter’s Moon, Selene,
in all her glory. Night’s air was redolent
with those same smells.
Perhaps hunting season opened?
Perhaps my neighbor doused his fireplace?
Or is moon landscape peopled with
hunters, fire builders who hid when
Apollo Lunar Module Eagle
swooped down toward them?
Shy, they hid until men and Eagle headed home.
Are they now recounting tales
of that day, and of the smell of rocket fuel?
After all, when moon is large and closer,
her light strong and full, odors
of ash and cordite slide down on moonbeams
as surely as dust motes ride on sunlight.
Now, sight and smell link moon and me.
I wait to learn her sounds, to let her grains
run through my hand and taste her essence.

I hope she tastes like cheddar.

First published in Writing in a Woman’s Voice Wednesday, 28 August 2019I Like to Think I Am Fiammetta

I always wanted to be Fiammetta--
ever since I read my father’s copy of
Petrarch’s Boccaccio (English language one)
then read it again this year.
From among the women
in the happy band of tale tellers
escaping the plague, I found and
fastened upon Fiammetta as my favorite.
She who was a tiny flame 
of inspiration,
who took second place
to no man, 
who matched wits with all
sharing tales of love,
who loved trickster tales, and
tales of strong women.
I like to think she
was a real woman,
that Petrarch was strong enough
to love a strong woman
tiny in form, brilliant and bright, 
a little flame.
I like to think that perhaps,
I am this era’s Fiammetta.

Several scholars of Boccaccio like to believe that the Fiammetta of the brigata was based upon a real woman, Maria d'Aquino, with whom Boccaccio fell in love. "Fiammetta" is a recurring character in a number of Boccaccio's works. As a story performer , poet, essayist and writer of short tales and novels, since I first began work as an economists to when I entered writing and performing as professions, women are always called to bridge the path between what is truly feminine and the illusion of same. 

Joan Leotta plays with words on page and stage. Her poems, articles, essays, and short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in dozens of journals around the world including Yellow Mama, Drunk Monkeys, anti-heroin chic, Verse Visual, Verse Virtual, Mystery Tribune, Crimeucopia, Bould Anthology, and two different Sisters in Crime anthologies. She has been a Tupelo Press 30/30 author, and a Gilbert Chappell Fellow. Her chapbook, Languid Lusciousness with Lemon, is out from Finishing Line Press. Her free chapbooks are Nature’s Gifts from Stanzaic Stylings, Dancing Under the Moon and Morning by Morning, mini chapbooks through Origami Press.

As a performer, she tells folk and personal tales featuring food, family, nature, and strong women. When not on stage or at her computer, she’s in the kitchen, or curled up with a book, or walking the beach.

Joan Leotta

Author, Story Performer

“Encouraging words through Pen and Performance”

Most recent Short story published: The Confession in issue 88 Yellow Mama


Books in Print

Languid Lusciousness with Lemon, Finishing Line Press

Morning by Morning and Dancing Under the Moon, two free mini-chapbooks are at https://www.origamipoems.com/poets/257-joan-leotta

Gifts of Nature, free chapbook on http://stanzaicstylings.blogspot.com/p/gifts-of-nature-twenty-poems-by-joan.html

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