She was seven when they lived in Kentucky,
her father between jobs, driving a cab.
One morning he brought home
a kite, forest green with a scarlet demon,

and she flew it all July,
running and letting out string until it rose
and her demon caught the wind in his arms.
Summer ended as it always does, an eternity

of faultless blue air.
Late afternoon in October, an hour
of daylight left, the string caught on a branch
and snapped.  She watched her kite

whip in the breeze, tear loose and slide away
over backyard gardens of pumpkins and squash,
a black speck that rose over the hills,
each tree like a struck match.

She told me this late at night.
In a few minutes she was quiet, her breath
measured in the darkness.  I knew
how the story ended, how years later

the cancer gnawed her father to the bone
until he was almost nothing, thin air drifting
from room to dark room, and seemed to lift
out of this burning world and vanish.

—James Ulmer

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 10 Number 10, on page 48
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