Sharon Klander.


Today my father floats face down,

maps with old eyes the undulations

of water still alive with catfish and perch.

But these are things to catch and eat,

things he doesn’t need. We could say free. Or maybe

the water’s rolled him face up because water is strong enough.

How could we have known yesterday

that on his second pass, a smile and wave to my mother

on the Ford’s blue hood, he’d be

swimming toward the skis flown out

from under him—and he in an instant,

in a human moment split:

He’s gone. And later, his forehead fickle

with shadows through willow and wild pecan,

summer limbs full and green, his face

a breathless mirror. We could say clear,

unbroken, good luck. On the third day—but isn’t that

the way with sacred stories?—he’s turned again

as if by a midwife’s sure hand, pulled from the gush of blood

and water enough to drown. Such a simple catch:

His trunks caught

on a trotline hanging secret, dangerous hooks

in my father’s private water,

and the fisherman looking to coat filets

in cornmeal for a greased pan. Looking only to put food

on the table. Looking to live.


Then she said to me, It was nothing like

the courtrooms on TV. Instead, a large

cherrywood table in the middle and people

around it, waiting. Yes, I’ve seen such places,

conference rooms where partners compare

the billed hours of associates, the money–No,

our money was in another room,

smaller. Two attorneys we asked

to leave us a few minutes. That must have

been hard. For the first time no one else.

For the last time I went the dark halls

of his eyes, quiet. I promised nothing

is set in stone, I begged, nothing is set

in stone. And still. Did the attorneys

follow you? Stand with you? Witness?

We took our turn at the raised–not too

high–raised leather chair–a partner’s chair

where the judge sat, looked down.

Court reporter? Yes, she was

careful. How many questions?

I can’t remember until the end when

only the judge would look only at me.

Attorneys? Face forward. And John?

Sometimes I joke, it was Halloween,

still warm in Houston but the same

swearing to tell the truth as on March 9th

when the steps to an Ohio church

were striped with late snow dust. What was

the last question? I was alone in it. I said no,

I didn’t believe. By all the gods, I said no.



Kelvin passes around a cellphone picture

of his unborn child, points to the speck

that proves gender, and I pretend to see.

He’s proud, of course, and I’m amazed

at the cold-gel smear on a woman’s belly

that opens like the diary of a missing girl

the clues to what lies inside, apparently

calm, with a heart this freshman has heard

muffling trochees through an obstetrician’s

sensitive machine. I crack a joke about

swollen ankles, saddle blocks, and the words

he won’t expect from the lips of his true love

in labor. Men have no idea, I say as if once

I’d breathed a baby through, while the women

nod and laugh, and I play along, wear well

my extra weight under loose-fitting clothes,

cling to a godmother’s subterfuge as I hold

my sister’s child, perpetually eight and

smiling in a frame on my desk. Kelvin goes

back to his seat, follows the life in his palms.

I hope he never asks. It’s only the beginning of class.


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