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With the Koi
       For My Father
by Martina Reisz Newberry

In the long afternoons
I sometimes dream of you, Dad,
so tall—a child's lie—rattling
the pages of your newspaper.

Your glasses glint, your eyes
strain white, then I wake.

You did not know, that morning,
how the students were cleaning

the Koi pond and found
at the bottom what looked like

a human hand. They walked down
with buckets and brushes

and fine clean intentions to drain
the Koi pond and scrub its sides.

That's when they found it; just after
the pond was drained, the Koi afraid.

In the evening, the nurse called
to say, "Hurry, your father

is dying." And I began
to move like Esther Williams

in a water ballet, like
a Piscean ballerina—

selfish and keen and beautiful
in my reluctance. One student

laughed; another, they say
vomited, but the one

who fished it out,
a tiny Vietnamese girl

studying Civil Engineering,
only pursed her lips and sniffed

and suggested they get on with it.
I'm grateful, Dad, that you were not Catholic;

had a priest been there, I swear,
I would have cried to offer him

the usual thing. Instead,
I touched your dry hand, stood

a while to harbor. . .something
for your emptied self.

From her book: NOT UNTRUE AND NOT UNKIND (Arabesques Press, 2007) available from


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