All the balloons that touched the ceiling now sink low enough for the children to bat them like inflatable clowns. Life retreats to the corners. Helium cheers as the guests of honor parcel out slices of layer cake, and languor suffuses the banquet hall. We might be elsewhere. If not for that punch at that office Christmas party, if not for the rhythm method, if not for my father’s insistence at my mother’s lips, joined in a drunken line. When I blink, the squealing generations vanish as if they never were.
fleeting as smoke
from a ring of candles