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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 12: March 2022
Poem: 209 words
By Laura Reed

Hell on Wheels

Those weren’t his exact words, but then 
he didn’t grow up under her thumb of steel. 
He hadn’t been slashed by that well-honed tongue. 
He could afford to be polite, the man who took over her care 
after my therapist advised me to move out of state. 
When we spoke long-distance by phone, he told me 
he saw other residents in her facility cringe 
in terror when her three-thousand-dollar motorized 
wheelchair rocketed in their direction. 
He said my mother gazed straight ahead, 
her painter’s smock streaming out behind her 
as she raced to the art room. 
My mother—willing to crush a toe, 
gouge a thigh, bash a knee. 
He told me of casualties in the elevator. 
I pitied them, her captive victims. 

Yet, it’s strange how I cherish 
this last image of her, this picture I hold up to light: 
Her face, almost radiant, lit with inner vision, 
she rolls down a long, narrow corridor. 
Despite polio-crippled limbs, she flies 
toward whatever version of Paradise awaits her 
among canvases, brushes, tubes of  paint. 
Her smock, streaked with vermillion, emerald, topaz, indigo, 
floats about her emaciated frame— 
like vibrant wings of some tropical bird of prey 
maddened by hunger for beauty. 


Laura Ann Reed
Issue 12, March 2022

holds a BA in French/Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley and completed Master’s Degree Programs in the Performing Arts, and Psychology. She was a dancer in the San Francisco Bay Area prior to assuming the role of Leadership Development Trainer at the San Francisco headquarters of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She and her husband now reside in western Washington. Her work has been anthologized in How To Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope, and has appeared in Blue Unicorn, Grey Sparrow, The Ekphrastic Review, Third Wednesday, Willawaw, and other journals.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

How We Get the Final Word, a poem by Laura Reed in Verse-Virtual (February 2022)

The Aging Poet Talks Back to Her Parents, micro-poem in Shot Glass Journal (Issue 36, January 2022)

Moth Wings, poem in Third Wednesday (18 October 2021)

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