I think of the things he doesn’t know, not yet,
in his eight years. The feel of a chisel against oak,
the smell of sage in Rivas Canyon,
a winning jump shot, a love run dry,
a laugh that loses its way.
Surely the battering of years has shown me
that I’m still just like him, a leaky boat of experience
floating on an ocean of unknown stuff.
But at night when I hold him I become his ocean,
wise and powerful, smelling of the past and the future.
I squeeze up close, his shoulders against my chest,
hip against my belly, he’s my island and I’m all around him,
I comfort and overwhelm him with touch and breath
and songs that bore him to sleep.
I want to make this sea, or some of it, his,
want him to know about the payoff of slow hard work,
the small triumph of facing something that scares him,
the power in pushing the bounds of what his skinny body can do.
I want to tell him about my own epic error
that took me so far away for so long
that finding my way home was a Homeric crapshoot.
But he sees the danger in my plan
sees it faster and surer than I do,
and before I know it he’s built a stone cottage
to shelter the fragile integer of who he is.
I see him in the window sometimes,
shaking his head at my wise advice.
Every now and then he opens the door a crack,
a hand appears and grabs some shred of what I offer.
I stand out here in the night air,
dismantling who I am, where I’ve been,
leaving a heap of parts for him to pick through.
I’d give him almost anything, any bit of me
that might help him grow bigger, shine brighter—
here’s some country music and a throat to sing it;
here’s how to trade meanness for a bumbling joke.
And since I can’t tell him who or how to be,
I’ve thrown off reason,
left it there with the rest of my stuff.
And I’ve taken up prayer.
I pray he doesn’t embrace my melancholy,
or the fear that turned me away from true love,
or my little trick of shrinking people so I don’t have to grow.
I pray that, as he stumbles through a lousy week, he can find
the lust to slog on that my dad hid from me.
I peel off the pertinent pieces of me, body and soul,
drop them one by one at his doorstep,
old and worn and mostly useless,
but there waiting for him, as I do. As I get closer
to my own naked end, I catch glimpses of him,
of what he takes, of what he leaves behind.
I give, I shake, I stand my watch. He takes my tears.