Ralph

Laura Read

The pond in Cannon Park is beginning its slow
cracking, its eye flashing you back to you
like a carousel’s mirrors. You slosh in your small
boots at the edge, and I think of how once
I skated across this water and then stood
by a fire with Ralph, the boy who sat next to me
that winter of first grade, who saw when I stole
the Dick and Jane reader, who watched
when Mrs. McCollough pulled me out in the hall
to say she was sorry about my father.

Ralph must have been standing too close
because the fire burned a hole in his coat.
Ralph smelled bad like a house
with its curtains closed and thin cats and pears
rotting in a bowl. When he went home,
he hung up his ruined coat. His mother asked
if the ice was strong enough in the middle,
and Ralph said yes, but he thought
of falling through, the bright needles
of sun in the water.