The Scales by JP Grasser

You were holding a roll of surgical tubing,

had it coiled around your elbow & shoulder


like a plastic lasso. We’d woken

to the Loomix tank full of belly-ups,


spent all morning checking belts & gaskets.

You hummed Bonnie Raitt as you worked.


After several wasted hours, I found the root:

the oxygen pump, halfway to burn-out


from all its useless sucking, its gasping

through the pumice filter—choked


with dead minnows, each the size & shimmer

of a roofing nail. I can’t keep myself from seeing


your deathbed, by now a thousand miles

& ten years away in five directions.


They put Amazing Grace on the boom box.

Tubing hung near your head.


On the mantle, your porcelain horses

kept rearing & rearing.


A Wallace Stegner Fellow, J.P. Grasser is a PhD candidate at the University of Utah, where he edits Quarterly West.