after Robert Hayden
by Laura Ann Reed
On Sunday mornings, my father tiptoes
from the room where my mother sleeps
curled into her womb’s secret of losses.
He closes the door, careful not to let it creak.
I follow him into the kitchen where
he spreads old newspapers over the floor.
Sets out tins of polish, a brush
and flannel cloth. Picks up a shoe. Under
his breath he whistles a tune he claims
he listened to on the radio, as a boy—
a happy song, he says. Perhaps
it’s because he whistles off-key
that it sounds sad.
What do I know about the sadness
in this house, the disappointments?
The way sun refuses to stipple
the walls? I look down at the daubs
of red, yellow, blue, and green
in the linoleum, playing a game:
If I find a cat in the pattern, I can
make a wish. But the daubs
are haphazard, there is no pattern.
Every week I look, but
there are never any cats.
* * * * *
"No Cats" was first published in Willawaw Journal and is part of Laura Ann Reed's collection Shadows Thrown (Sungold Editions, 2023)
Laura Ann Reed, a San Francisco Bay Area native,
taught modern dance and ballet at the
University of California, Berkeley before working as a leadership development trainer at the San
Francisco headquarters of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Her work has
appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in the United States, Canada, and Britain. She is
the author of the chapbook, Shadows Thrown (2023). Laura and her husband live in the Pacific