40 | Kathryn Gahl


WINNER: “40” by Kathryn Gahl of Appleton, Wisconsin
TOPIC: Regrets & Resolutions
MONTH: January 2018


by Kathryn Gahl


The day after I visit my daughter in prison
I think of how she is not allowed to handle money
not even go near the vending machines
in the visiting room so it is up to me to scan
the glass boxes, memorize, and
walk back to her to
ask what she wants—pizza or fries—for
there is no fruit amidst Cheetos and Skittles

and I think of fruit, of watching her Papa
put a banana peel in the silver ware drawer
when I went to be with him in his last days

at which time he tucked in the banana
with such finesse
before taking off all his clothes
and attempting to button an invisible shirt
around his swollen cancerous belly

It was then he turned to me
lips in a full smile, saying
I’d like to do it again
only next time
I’d like to do it better.

In the decade since he died, I think about It
an elusive pronoun that can function by itself or
partake in discourse: was his It my It? Does it matter as
the past becomes the present
and tomorrow twists memories
of windsong and longing

of the whisper paint made
when it touched his canvas
and stayed, of
Beethoven’s Triple Concerto
washing the walls in a Greenwich Village loft
where I peeled not pages
in a thesaurus, where I measured not words but flour,
where I fed not my soul but his as I sprinkled
powdered sugar on homemade crepes suzette

Would I do any of it again?
Only if I were crazy


40 © 2017 Kathryn Gahl


Kathryn Gahl writes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. “40” is from her memoir in verse, DANCE WHEN YOU CAN’T. Her works appear in over forty journals. A finalist at glimmer Train and Wisconsin People & Ideas, she believes in the transcendent power of dark chocolate, deep sleep, and red lipstick.




Find the complete list of Musepaper winners and finalists here .

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