The Happy Album

daddy's girl

You swung me up onto your shoulders
and strapped me into heavy metal roller skates
and threw me into the lake to wash melted ice cream off my belly
and put your foot over my eyes during sex scenes on tv
and said I was lucky to have a brain that would intimidate the boys
who weren't worth my time.

Your hands always smelled like cigarettes and Ivory soap
when you went out
and you taught me how to swing an axe
and told me the story behind your bent pinky finger
and picked me up from an uncomfortable situation at a bad party
and had tea with me at the top of the stairs at one in the morning.

You kept your late mother's Bible next to your bed
and your late brother's slippers in your closet
and your late father's ring on your finger,
and wore your sneakers until mom threw them away
and let me squish the blood out of the veins in your hands during church.

You read to me even when you were tired
and stopped my nosebleeds with a karate chop to the heels
and took me to the movies
and taught me how to argue a point and stick to my guns,
and told me that my mother's body was beautiful
because it made everything that happened after you were married possible.

You narrowed your eyes down to the horizon across a field of wheat
and showed me where your old dog Max lay under a pile of rocks
and woke me up at six in the morning for polar bear swims
and told me I should get into computers ten years before I did
and said not to tell my mother when you rubbed my shaved head
because you liked the way it felt.

On nostalgic days, this is all present.
Your hand is in my hair,
and I press on the back of it to flatten its soft veins.
We open the car doors to cool the hot seats down while our feet dry,
and the axe swings a great crack into a dry log
just right for the first time.
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