Small talk is when words hitchhike--they will let any mouth transport them around, but without chatter, we are just people in boxes.
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Fish Fry Daughter
Holiday Inn kitchen, the day I am born:
My father is frying fish for a party of seventeen when the call comes from the hospital. He stays until the batter is crispy, cold salads scooped
on platters, rye bread buttered.
Dad never told me this story.
He told my boyfriend, one short order cook to another.
Mom doesn’t know why Dad was late
for her screams and sweat on the hospital bed.
Once, when she was angry with him, she told me:
When your father finally got there, the nurse had to tell
him to get upstairs, “Your wife is having that baby now.”
I hope that when Dad first held me,
it was with haddock-scented hands, apron
over his black pants still sprinkled with flour, forehead oily from standing over the deep fryer, telling the fish to hurry hurry.
- Sara Ries
Poem copyright ©2010 by Sara Ries from Come In, We’re Open, National Federation of State Poetry Societies Press, 2010. Selected by Ted Kooser for his American Life in Poetry column.