The Art of Family
I killed the last one yesterday. Funeral's at two today. It's a sad commentary on my life when I can't even keep five goldfish alive for more than a week. I knew the last one was going when what looked like cotton formed over one eye. I braced myself for the inevitable mourning from my seven-year-old, who has already been traumatized by four goldfish funerals this week.
When he saw the goldfish and tank my older daughter bought for her brother, the look of terror on my husband's face said it all. I was a fish killer and everyone knew it.
She should have known better. When she was five, I bumped her guppy tank in the middle of the night and killed all five hundred in one sweep. Another time, I killed her six goldfish doing the very same thing. Can I help it that I sleepwalk?
She's never forgiven me for it, even though I tried to make it up with the bird, the kitten, and finally, the dog. The first also died, the second ran off, and the third (thank God) has managed to survive my homicidal tendencies, although he does look at me kinda funny when I forget to feed him. Someone must have clued him in.
Being the good mother I am, I kept my son busy and out of his room when he came home from school. I begged a friend to lend me her boy so my son would stay busy while I planned the funeral. Mostly, I pondered what to say at the wake. How many good things can you say about a goldfish? I ran through my mental list of what had already been said at Tim, Jill, Al, and Wilson's funeral. How was Goldie any different the goldfish they had been?
My son had said the eulogy at Tim's service. As we gathered around the toilet, he talked about what a good swimmer Tim had been.
He talked about how Tim liked to hang out at the bottom of the tank, while the others hung out around the top. That Tim sure was a maverick. We said a prayer. Then it was time. My son's crocodile tears were the only thing that kept me from bursting out laughing as we flushed Tim off to the great goldfish pond in the sky.
"Goldie is with her friends now," I told my sobbing son, as I finished the prayer at the latest victim's service. "She is much happier now, swimming and playing with all the other goldfish."
"Say something nice about her, mom." My son said, wiping a tear from his cheek.
"Um...I said the prayer, um, why don't you say a few words, son? Goldie would like that." I mumbled.
"Okay." He said bravely, choking back tears.
"Goldie was, um," he began, pausing to choose a word. "Goldie sure was gold," he said and flushed her away. I gently hugged him as we watched her spin away. Wonder if it's hard to kill a hamster?
by Frances Reza
The real world tries to hide my desire for a family,
to creep around the abyss only not to fall
in love, and let those animals feed. I am profoundly scared,
and live in a cave. People unaware of this
keep a significant distance, and with this in mind
form animal figures with your hands (Oh, sorry, that's another
story I'm considering). I often dream of an attic
in the Caribbean, where I send postcards to my patience.
I steal these definitions with partial thought processes
that combine prayer and profanity, and more often than not,
while I am sleeping. The palm trees hold up clouds
with their sharp teeth. My father makes clouds
with his ears, and my mother used to clean his ears,
but now my sister paints the clouds, where neighborhoods
spring out of joy and distance. When I wake, my story
leads me to the saw. I plant with my own two eyes
by the sea, the end.
by Matt Copeland
22 June 1998
For William Preston Farabow
Wide awake and numb I wait
As I have for lifetimes, mine and yours.
The balance of yours
Will define much of mine,
The Balance of mine is light,
While you are still in water.
I have dreamt of water,
Breathing water deep and quiet.
I have dreamt ether full of you,
My life to be filled.
And I have dreamt of you,
Flesh and blood, fire,
I have dreamt of biking deep into Autumn mountains with you on my back,
I have dreamt of swimming through Springs and springs with you at my side.
While I have seen the sound of you,
You have remained mostly ether.
And though I have felt you kick and breathe,
I've yet to hold you.
And though I've breathed the thought of you deep,
You've yet to fully exist to me.
You've kept me at bay,
Waiting and longing.
You've kept me swimming,
Head above water,
Breathing an air that soon you will know,
But mostly, Mostly,
You've kept me.
Tomorrow I will hold you for the first time,
Then all my tomorrows will be met with joy,
As ether breaks through water,
Finding me no longer longing.
by Preston Farabow
I am pressed between
the pages of a book
I haven't read for years
It's a paperback
in the pocket of the old
In the park across
I smile and wave
and hope to find myself
lying carelessly upon the
green bench near the swing set.
by A.A. LaBrec
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