Since Sunday is Father’s Day, I wanted to honor my father with this poem about an incident that happened when I was 12. The poem originally appeared in Poetry Northwest.
Lantern scans, a searchlight
over water. My father and I
are floundering. I am twelve.
He’s just returned from war games
in Japan. We walk in Neuse River water,
metal gigs in hand, searching
for the tell-tale shapes of flounder.
For camouflage, they bury themselves in sand.
Still their outlines give these fish away,
like a girl’s small breasts
against an outgrown sweater.
I feel lost. He’s been gone two years;
he’s as strange to me
as the metal poles we carry,
poles designed to stab.
The wind is hot. The stars
outline the sky in constellations.
I am afraid. I don’t want to find the fish.
I would not have the heart
to lift the gig. I scuff through water,
My father sees. He starts to sing.
He kicks up sand like I do.
He takes my hand. We splash, we shuffle
through the swirling water.
The fish are safe. And I am safe.
The moon shines. The lantern shines.
The water shines. My father and I
are going home.