In the backyard, by the stilled
oscillations of the cheap
metal fence defined
by the weight of children,
the small maple
waves in the first
gusts of a fall day.
Behind breath-frosted
glass, hearing far off
my child’s cry, I
see this waving become
my father’s thick arms.
He waves at the ballgame
where players swarm
at his call. One spits.
He waves from the nose
of a rowboat, drunk
with fish and ashamed.
He waves at the black
end of a treeless street
where my mother has turned
from the house, crying.
He waves on a little hill
above the playground,
his whistle shearing
over each knuckle
of asphalt. When I stop
running, out of breath,
he is still there, waving
and I am waving, beating
the air with my arms,
sored and afraid,
and there is no wind, only
the brilliant distance
like a fence between us,
waving and waving.


Dave Smith
from his book Floating on Solitude
University of Illinois Press, 1996
reprinted with permission of the poet

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