Whatever the Past Is
Some nights, my girls circle him, glitter wands poised like spears.
They dance around their papa like a small pajamaed tribe, throw
their heads back laughing at their genius, giddy.
He is twice their size and he will kneel in front of them,
carry them on his shoulders, suspend them in his arms just so
they may swim up the steps, through the rooms of the house,
like small mermaids in a great, aquatic kingdom.
Even when they should be sleeping, he takes questions:
What is karate? Where is Australia? How do phones work?
Daddy, they say, do you even remember
what it was like before us? He cannot, he says. He won’t.
So it has been forever, as long as their lives, at least.
As they drift into their dreams, they reach their hands
up the back of his t-shirt and trace the scars
that cross his back — pale, raised cordons of skin.
He lets them- only them — touch him here.
Even their eyes closed, their breaths easy and deep
they are fearless, running along his fault lines like this.
I can hear them saying so what, so what in their sleep,
whatever the past is, they’re not scared of it.