by boiling tea or phone call,
failed to notice his hand sliding
into her purse for the attic key.
The fact that the attic remained locked,
key zipped into an inner compartment,
made it all the more irresistible.
He explored for ten minutes,
pulling out cabinet drawers,
rifling through trunks,
pulling out a chipped blue cup
and holding it to his mouth
to toast with a cup of air
some invisible companion.
A week later he died of diphtheria,
the cup being that of a distant cousin
from forty years before,
who sipped his last gulps
from this favorite mug,
the one memento his family
couldn't give away.
None would know germs
could survive forty years,
or cause another mother and father
to spiral out of control,
to never be the same again,
to distort one side of the family tree,
branches stunted, or shadowed
from sunlight, veering off
into strange unforeseen directions.
Setting down the cup,
the smearing of saliva
around the raised lip
already evaporating in the heat,
John climbed down the ladder,
slipped the key into the compartment,
then ran with his sister into the grass,
the process of dying already begun.
D. Reynolds teaches at Johnson County Community College in
Overland Park, Kansas, and has published poems in various print
and online journals, including New Delta Review, Alabama
Literary Review, Aethlon-The Journal of Sport Literature,
The MacGuffin, Flint Hills Review, Midwest Poetry
Review, Potpourri, Ariga, Strange Horizons,
Combat, American Western Magazine, The Pedestal
Magazine, Ash Canyon Review, and Orphan Leaf Review.
Thomas D. Reynolds