Laura Ann Reed
Bio Note: There’s always that mystery of why certain moments from our past return and return. Moments that wouldn’t seem, on a superficial level, to merit so much attention—like the recollection of my father polishing his shoes each weekend—somehow entrench themselves in the heart and mind. And too, the memory of my grandfather darting from chair to chair as he played chess against himself. But of course, embedded in those moments are worlds of association.
Red Bird of Love
A poem’s final line: All forms, the man wrote, tend toward blur reminds me of my dad, how he recedes into dense fog and rarely speaks to me anymore. Although occasionally a phrase or two comes back from that song he’d sing when he thought no one was listening: When the red, red robin comes bob, bob, bobbin’ along, there’ll be no more sobbin’ when he starts singing his old sweet song— Truth lies in silence, he’d say wearing that pensive look as he polished his work shoes early Sunday mornings while I’d watch his face, waiting for him to say something true. No confusion in those days over truth’s location. Truth was in my skinny legs that propelled me to the door when he came back from the laboratory reeking of test tubes filled with alfalfa juice. Truth was in his chemist’s slender hands that dropped briefcase and lunch box to scoop me up. That man who’d rise in darkness to lure the sun above the horizon, who later lullabied me into dreams. When did his shape begin to blur, his colors fade? How I miss him, my dad, that red bird of love.
An earlier version was published in Willawaw Journal
My grandfather peels cellophane wrap from a fresh pack of Camels, taps one out, lights up, and blows a perfect orbit above my head. I rise on my toes and reach toward a form that blurs and disappears. In the windless heat and deep shadow of a California orange grove, I suddenly need to know: Grandpa, how long did that boat take to get here from Odessa? Where did your sister go? When he gestures with a weathered hand, I look down at the sunbaked ground, hoping for a glimpse of my great-aunt’s face. But all I see is dust, and a dust-choked jimson-weed. Grandpa, is it true, what my mother says, that you brought only those Yiddish songs you wrote? He goes into the house and comes out carrying a card-table and two folding chairs. He sets up his chessboard in the green shade of a citrus tree and darts from chair to chair, playing against himself. He doesn’t cheat. I watch him nudge a knight, a queen. Grandpa, when you were my age, did you laugh? Did you dance? He swivels in his seat and plucks a Valencia orange from a branch behind his back. He strips the rind with his pocket knife and hands me a piece of fruit. I eat it all, meat, pith, seeds— the way the earth ate my grandfather’s life, his sister’s. The way it will eat mine. Juice streams down my chin. My eyes sting from the sweetness.
An earlier version was published in Swimm
©2022 Laura Ann Reed
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