By Sara Ryan
and my father makes me cry
on the phone. “I’m angry at him”
he says. but I’m just sad. maybe
because, through tv screen static,
I see my sister—her deep grey darkness.
in him, I see my father and his shoulders
like felled trees. their shared name. when
I talk about what could have been different,
I use the word “wish”. I hold it in my mouth.
I wish he had stayed. I wish nothing hurt.
I wish France knew how to bring him back.
I wish he knew the ways rivers crossed
the plains. but maybe he knew and it wasn’t
enough. on the phone, my father talks
about his patients. veterans gone missing.
my mother asks if I want to be the executor
of their will. it sounds too much like
executioner. I learn that I will inherit my dead
grandmother’s wedding ring. But Anthony, with
his unshaven face, his long, sun-soaked arms,
loses hope in Berlin. he names Hong Kong
paradise. he eats egg yolks cured by the sun.
he glimmers on screen and somehow knows
everyone’s name. every herb and animal heart.
2 days after his death, his daughter has a concert
and wears knee high combat boots that he bought
for her. bravery is something that not all of us
earn. I drive to Detroit and eat noodles. over broth,
we talk about him like we knew him. earlier that day,
I cried in the car when I heard it on the radio. I stuffed
a breakfast quesadilla into my quivering mouth.
too much oil, no spice. a week later, my father
makes me cry. we are angry. we are sad. we hurt.
we want to take every cruelty we know and name it our own.
Sara Ryan received her MFA from Northern Michigan University, where she was an associate poetry editor for Passages North. Her work has been published in or is forthcoming from Pleiades, Sonora Review, DIAGRAM, Prairie Schooner, Hunger Mountain and others, and she was the winner of Grist Journal's Pro Forma Contest in 2018. She is the author of the chapbook Never Leave the Foot of an Animal Unskinned (Porkbelly Press). She is currently pursuing her PhD in creative writing at Texas Tech University.