Eight-year-old Hailey stands perched on tiptoe,
her little hands wrapped around the white metal railings
of her bedroom balcony. She sees the orange fire
of evening cool as the sun hangs lower over the harbor
and the sky turns a deeper blue than the water.
She watches the last lingering daylight burn out,
distant sailboats silhouetted against it.
It reflects off glass windows in the buildings of the town
overlooked by her family’s cliffside house.
She recalls visiting that harbor town not long ago
for another nighttime excursion.
Having been tugged along by the brisk pace
of her mother rushing to make their reservation,
she saw only the luminescence of neon signs
and the shape of a fishing boat on the horizon.
She didn’t take notice of the cracked asphalt
of a sidewalk overgrown by weeds,
moth-swarmed streetlights flickering precariously,
or posters of missing Amelia Garrison
drooping from mossy telephone poles.
She doesn’t know those neon lights
frame the overrun gentlemen’s clubs
where the inebriated men congregate
after their wives have fallen asleep,
and on that far-away boat, a crane pulls up
a ripped, empty net and the fisherman wonders
if his family can still afford a meal tonight.
And now, as she leans over the balcony,
she sees only glimmering buildings and a haze
of fading sunlight over emptying city streets.
From here, she can’t see the line dissipating outside
the too-crowded homeless shelter
turning away yet another mouth to feed,
the working moms setting sticky traps to force the rats out
of their cramped one-bedroom apartments,
or the week-old corpse of Amelia Garrison
washed up on the shore, neck bruised deeply, lips blue,
entangled in the torn fishing net that dredged her up
from her final resting place.
Ann Rhodes is an author from Baltimore, Maryland. She writes in many different genres, from narrative poetry to sci-fi novels. She has six years of professional experience writing and is currently pursuing a degree in creative writing from a college in Southern California.