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.