Building 45

Literary/Arts Journal

The Reception

by Clarence Barela

In a reception hall just like this one.
Leonard bounces on my lap.
Like me, he lacks social-cues.

Arms pale and fat, and a hand like
a spork that reaches up toward my
face, he says,

My sister is elated. She says,
My God! Leonard, he spoke!
She couldn't hear; she wants
to know what he said.
He told me,
I tell her,
That I have fish lips.

I hand him off and he points back at me,
and I imagine gaudy silver rings so
large around his fingers they devour
his knuckles,
I imagine him making small talk.
I imagine him laughing at jokes
that aren't funny,
and it tears my heart.

Balloons pop and pastel confetti
falls from the ceiling like a million
sinking ships on a breathless ocean.
I close my eyes before it takes me,
and I say, Fish-lips.

I notice Leonard again, twenty years
from now. His clothes are formal,
in a reception hall just like this one.
It's new-years-eve and everyone is shouting
over us, and he says, What did you say?

So, like an echo, I say again,
and he smiles, though,
I know he hasn't heard me.