1997

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A poem that explores my father's hidden self.

A girl with a sketchbook

Will fill the pages

With lopsided kittens,

Horses in possession 

Of noses as long as tails

And blooms in vases,

Edges smudged with lead

Transferred from palms

Eager to leave a mark. 

 

She soon grew tired of the familiar

And looked beyond the Missouri bluffs

And the muddy ribbon of water

Snaking through her childhood

In search of subjects more exotic.

 

She longed to draw something new. 

 

A seagull.

She had only known rivers. Never oceans. 

But never mind that

For there is no faith 

Like that of a girl

With a sketchbook.

 

She told her father of her wish

As he sanded cedar in his shop,

Shavings flying like purple martins

Rustled from their roost.

 

He laid down his carpenter's pencil

(See, Katie Bug? Flat sides mean it stays

 Right where you leave it)

And listened.

 

She held her gull:

Crooked lines.

Skewed portions.

Childish rendering.

 

Her father looked away

From the sawhorse

From the shed in the country

From the daughter despairing before him

 

And went to the sea.

To the dress whites

To heavy tanks of air on backs

To the blurred edges of submarine days

 

To the seagulls

That dotted the Italian shores like buoys

Where he could finally breathe again.

 

He drew a seagull of his own

And gave it to her.

No ceremony.

No explanation.

None needed.

 

A perfectly formed bird

Perched majestically on a post

Beetle-shell eyes surveying

All that lies ahead.

A masterpiece

Drawn with a carpenter's pencil.

 

A gift.

 

For she had caught a flicker

Of a submerged part of him

That at times surfaces

To steal a breath

Only to disappear 

For another long tour

Under the ocean.

 

It stays

Right where 

You leave it.

 

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