by Kathryn Kysar


At the suburban country club swimming
pool, a birthday party for a first grader
on a warm spring evening: doughy pizza,
frosted cupcakes, presents of Tonka trucks,
Legos, video games. Skinny boys in floral
swim trunks splash and yell. The young
lifeguard looks at the teen in a bikini,
stares into the distance, waiting for the end
of his shift. A small boy sinks in the water.

In wheelchairs around the nurse’s station,
the aid records the elderly patient’s food
and water intake, not his special interest
in cake and ice cream, not his slippery
thoughts that slide like young boys’ sleds
skimming down a steep hill at a winter
birthday party, his memories under cloudy
ice that used to be transparent, memories
in opened coats flapping in the wind as
they skid around the corner and are gone.

The mother’s car crashes through thin ice
near the inlet’s bridge, the dark road
slippery with melted snow, the late winter
hole on the big lake gaping. Did the boy
in the back seat roll down the window,
unlatch his seatbelt, and open his mouth
in realization, or did his thoughts freeze,
slip away, drift to the silty bottom, skid
around the corner, then gone?

Kathryn Kysar is the author of two books of poetry, Dark Lake and Pretend the World, and she edited the anthology Riding Shotgun: Women Write About Their Mothers. She has received fellowships from the Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, the Minnesota State Arts Board, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Her poems and essays have recently been published in About Place Journal, The Mollyhouse, Slag Glass City, The Under Review, and Voice Mail Poems. She performs with the Sonoglyph Collective, a jazz/poetry ensemble, and lives near the Mississippi River in Saint Paul.