Monday, April 25, 2011


This poem is posted for
Day 19
Prompt: An overheard conversation

Photo by Tess Kincaid

I waited in the corner of my bench, swaying
to the breeze of the swinging doors and the
hypnotic dance of silver Lookdown fish;
hand mirrors swimming in the lighted circle
of a watery glass cylinder, maddeningly obedient
to some instinct, uncomplaining, beautifully ornamental.
Featured exhibit in the lobby of the aquarium,
the symmetrical circling of their silver bodies
was a stark contrast to the chaotic swirl of humanity.

The family stopped to tend to the baby.
My gaze was drawn to the older woman –
to hieroglyphs on her soul - easily deciphered.
Deep disappointment hid behind her half smiling mask,
tinged with a smirk. Her eyes scanned the family group
before her: tall fair son, his dark middle-eastern wife,
her adolescent daughter, baby of blended complexion,
clearly the couple’s son. The baby’s mother fussed
over the crying child, including her husband
in a smiling attempt to sooth their son. Yet,
the tentacles of tension in the group reached out
to clutch me in their stifling grip. I felt it
as strongly as my claustrophobic panic
in the exhibit tunnels, but I sat still, smiling
as the young father picked up the child,
facing him towards me over his shoulder.

The baby was as exotic as the beautiful
creatures of the sea in the aquarium –
eyes a striking amber and green, penetrating,
somehow knowing, as he responded
to the silent game of peek-a-boo I began to play with him.
His tentative smile caught the attention of the parents,
thankful for his momentary distraction,
but as my eyes played with his,
my heart saw the grandmother’s expression soften –
the mask slipping, if only for a moment –
as she allowed herself to believe
that maybe it was ok, maybe
her grandson was loveable after all.


  1. Beautifully creative and vivid story telling.

  2. Postcard from the crowd. You've captured with the observer's eye both the nuance and the texture of relationships, the unspoken collisions and pulls and stresses that fracture us in the human family. Your first stanza is also stand-alone beautiful. A fine piece, Ann.

  3. Powerful, gripping piece... depth of contact between those obviously related... yet forth the observer, slips into the colorful hues, refracting life but for a moment.

  4. Beautifully powerful. I always play peekaboo with babies in crowds, and make funny faces at them. It has gotten me strange looks from parents and others but I don't care. It doesn't get more authentic than babies! "Deep disappointment hid behind her half smiling mask,tinged with a smirk." I love trying to read faces like hers, trying to learn the story.

  5. Some mothers can't except blended complexions. The spouse never makes the cut and their children are suspect too. I read that in your insightful poem of hints. Really enjoyed following you through the drama.

  6. Very good view of the prompt; well written.

  7. Poignant and moving. I especially like:

    "the tentacles of tension in the group reached out to clutch me in their stifling grip"


  8. you have caught the claustrophobia of family disapproval very well

  9. Your Magpie will be one of my favorites ... if only we could see beyond the color of our skins.

  10. Loved the story, but my typographer's soul was irked by all that centered text...A very observant view of human behavior which linked well with fish who can also be found swimming against the current...

  11. OMG, Ann, this gave me chills. This very conscious observer, the poet, is arrested by a "little fish" story being played out, more importantly than the fish behind glass, and then turns it into a heart-melting family dynamic. Beautifully done.

  12. Wonderful observances wrapped in this well written piece. Very evocative. I especially like "tentacles of tension".

  13. this is brilliant.

    family bond is unbreakable....

    share your work with us today.