DECLINE
Ana Maria Caballero

Talk does not last long with father. Bad hand inside plate signals the end of his lucidity respite.

But who says what matters? What is food? What is fed? His clean hands eat. His closed mouth chews.

The waitress takes a picture. I was a waitress plenty of years and never took a picture. If I remember one thing—it was before cell phone pictures. If I remember another—it was Thanksgiving as a waitress in New York. How I wanted to interrupt the talk of families at tables to insist it was choice.

Father. Just him, just me. The cloth on our table is heavy and white. Just us. I cut his pasta and help him scoop it onto the spoon held by his good hand. He attempts to ask about my kids. But the sentence goes adrift, is annulled, swallowed. No matter.

His bad hand enters his plate. I clean it with a paper napkin. Request others.

Bad hand, baffled sentence. Sudden but familiar face of permanent surprise. His pool blue eyes empty as water. Water that would say.

When he finishes, again, I clean his hands.

Dialogue is the thing when a matter goes forth and back.






Ana Maria Caballero was born in Miami in 1981 but spent most of her childhood in Bogotá, Colombia. She is seeking an MFA in Poetry at Florida International University, where she was runner-up for the Academy of American Poets Prize. Her nonfiction manuscript A Petit Mal won the International Beverly Prize for Literature. It was also shortlisted for the Tarpaulin Sky Press Book Awards and the Split/Lip Press reading cycle. Her collection Entre domingo y domingo won Colombia's 2014 José Manuel Arango National Poetry Prize. Finishing Line Press published Mid-life, her first chapbook, in 2016. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in outlets such as the Los Angeles Review of Books, Sundog Lit, Tupelo Quarterly, Gigantic Sequins, and The Southeast Review and was a finalist in Ploughshares' 2019 Emerging Writers Contest. More online at anamariacaballero.com.

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