Not long after bombs stop plunging
from the skies over Tripoli, I invade
the “Mommy and Me Class” at the local pool.
A storm broods. Lightning slithers
through murky clouds. The chance that steered
the wayward bird of artillery that killed
the general’s four-month old granddaughter
threatens to march us to the break room
for a politically correct safety video
in which Longfellow, a cartoon whale
in Florence Nightingale bonnet, tells the tale
of the only black kid in a gang of four white kids
to get sunburned. For now, our sleek
teenage teacher floats in a cheerless hub
of eight tubby moms and eight girlies
in pig and peppermint suits. My son and I,
the only males, keep the far-off dreams
of deposed kings behind the forged passports
of our smiles. Chilly hypocrites, the adults sing,
“If You’re Happy and You Know It,”
paddling the hands and feet of rebel kids.
Each turn of the matriarchal wheel sends
an overcast look of ethnic cleansing
in my direction. Who can splash off the stain
of not belonging? What dark weather
decreed us too heavy for this year’s styles?
What tyranny snared me in the whirlpool
of fatherhood? My son, pure Viking, hair as white
as Arctic light, eyes of fierce democratic blue,
senses the shift in regimes as we slip
single-file into The Lazy River. Under guard
of a goofy fiberglass moose, I learn I must
dunk him three times, which I do, loving him more
each time he comes up screaming curses
at this world in which every small life matters
as long as we, the newest circle of leaders,
obey the command to drown our hearts
and immerse our young in the lessons of death.
Teach writing at BYU-Idaho. Poetic stuff in Alehouse; Bateau; The Cape Rock; PANK; Poecology; Quiddity; Rattle; Slant; The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review; Spoon River Poetry Review; Terrain; and Wild Violet. Earned the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Award and a PhD in Literature and Criticism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.