Why do you ask?
Mum glides a hand behind
my ear as I ask about his used
car salesman eyes, the sizzle
of his voice in a bathtub
or the buzz of his face bristling
against her fingers, her parents’
trial separation and reunion
When did you last see him alive?
Did he confiscate your cigarettes
or let you hide them beneath
your pillowcase like baby teeth?
She holds out a mouldy coin
Is this a magic trick? She digs
shoulder-deep into polluted sands
of his memory, pulls them up
with yabbies nipping her fingertips
and the coin is gone. Did he burn
easy or tan? The photos never tell
Did he yell a lot or not at all?
Was he an able swimmer or hopeless
sinker? Did he dream of dissolving?
I ask what was the largest
fish he ever caught, if he ate
it all to himself or brought
it home to his family for dinner
She hesitates then replies, Why
do you ask? Why didn’t you?
Sean West holds a BFA in Creative and Professional Writing. In 2019, he was shortlisted for the Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize. His work has appeared in StylusLit, Stilts Journal, and Baby Teeth Journal, among others. Find more of him at www.callmemariah.com.