What She Wanted
She chides her father’s ghost
for his failure
to outlive her mother.
For going along
with her mother’s decision
that what the furnace refused to take of him
would be carried out in a boat
and scattered in the bay under the Golden Gate.
She’d wanted to have a metal vessel filled
with what remained of her father
to empty into the waters near her home.
She knows that to let go of these grievances
would be to lose him. (I only
wanted, she tells him, to hold onto you,
only wished you’d let
me be the one to know you.)
Let me go, my father says.
And when his doctor pulls the tubes
he’s a fish flailing on a riverbank.
How strange it is to stand
so close to this.
When wrenched from its world
does a fish know sorrow?
That summer at the lake
I reeled in a bluegill,
a single fin pinned by the hook.
I couldn’t bear the beauty,
the staring eye. Its belly cool
against my palm I lifted
out the barb, felt the heart’s alarm.
Then I watched the disturbance
on the water’s surface
disappear. Absence holds the music
of a lake lapping at the shore—
a low note that goes on and on.
Older now, what she fears
is the gate swinging open
in a distant field grown nearer.
It’s not her own footsteps
across the stones and windblown grass
that fill her with dread, but those
of the man who positions
his chair next to hers on the porch
to look at the moon.
She can’t say what frightens her more—
the thought of seeing him approach
the weathered boards,
or the vision of herself alone
under an uncertain sky.
Laura Ann Reed, a San Francisco Bay Area native, taught modern dance and ballet at the University of California, Berkeley before working as a leadership development trainer at the San Francisco headquarters of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in the United States, Canada and Britain. She is the author of the chapbook, Shadows Thrown, (Sungold Editions, 2023). Laura and her husband live in the Pacific Northwest.