The Fourth Wall

Some days we’re obviously
in a show, like when my son comes home
from college and I forget he is special
and finish what I was doing before saying hello.
The first hours he’s home,
I have to remind myself
every time I come out of my bedroom
that I’m playing the role of his mother.
I go to my bedroom a lot,
like a woman from the 1950s who has to lie down.
My son wears a heart monitor now
so the doctors can monitor
his ventricular tachycardia, which is a term
I just learned that means that your heart races
and you get lightheaded and sometimes
results in sudden death.
I think it’s incredible that people I’ve never met
are watching my son’s heart
from 300 miles away
when sometimes I can’t even remember
to be his mother.
I heard his heart beat when he was inside of me
and it was, of course, miraculous
and loud, like the ocean inside a shell,
which people tell me they can hear.
Actually, it was more like a horse galloping
towards you, another thing I’ve never heard
though at camp we slapped our hands quickly
on our knees to make a sound just like it,
and it was exciting,
summoning those invisible horses.
Lately, on the shows I’m not in but like to watch,
everyone’s been breaking the fourth wall,
which I enjoy—a character looks at you
through the screen and invites you,
with just the lift of an eyebrow,
to see the world as she does.
It’s easier to be in the show if you’re able
to step out of it
like this.

Laura Reed is the author of Dresses from the Old Country (BOA, 2018), Instructions for My Mother’s Funeral (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012), and The Chewbacca on Hollywood Boulevard Reminds Me of You (Floating Bridge Press, 2011). She served as poet laureate for Spokane, Washington from 2015-17 and teaches at Spokane Falls Community College.