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I’m held, straddling his lanky thigh,

wrapped in a double-breasted coat

and sweater that enlarge

my toddler frame.

We’re on a bench, outside. He wears

a regulation tie,

the khaki G.I. shirt that

still hangs in my back-of-closet

and my mind, too fragile now

to take down or to wear. It seems

I’ve just been jounced on his big knee:

my breathless glance hints

recent glee. Remembered clip-clops

can’t be traced to this March scene.

They rise instead from hours

I bounced my own small sons,

blurred imprints from a different time.

Why does this picture

move me so? Perhaps it’s his

enchanted gaze, the smile

of one who seldom smiled in

later days. Perhaps it’s (looking back)

how young he seems: broad face aligned

precisely with my tiny shoulder-edge;

the tendoned hand that steadies me,

his red-gold hair slicked sideways

from a part I don’t recall. There are

no wrinkles here; no chasms carved

by worry or despair. No slow

retreat beneath the pressures

of disease and fear. I want to

twist round and return his grin

and state at last his many gifts

that went unsaid, and say that no one

is to blame for afterwards;

and -- once more sheltered from the

universe -- to nestle in.

First published in Rat's Ass Review, Winter 2018

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