My son hovers over me
jangles knees on the diving board
begs me: Come closer;
then jumps. I catch him,
plunge deep under the bursting water,
his small body holding me down
while I kick, both feet flailing
towards the pool’s floor,
I almost inhale water,
the smell of chlorine
snakes through my sinuses
until my head feels the cold air above the pool’s surface
and I breathe silver air,
still holding my son aloft, then cough water
through my nose and mouth
before grabbing a lane marker for support.
A week earlier, my son asked me
if I would die for him. Sure, I told him.
I love you more than my own life.
I was wrong. Now I know I love our lives as one
because my children have come to me.
I want to live to dance at my son’s wedding,
watch my daughter’s daughter dance a ballet
in her flannel pajamas, see their lives
grow from mine, a fairy ring of green trees,
my trunk rising and falling like
a crucifix, a fruit tree, a tree under which one sits,
pointing me towards my first father,
his son, their spirit dance
of sacrifice, death and life.
by Paul Totah April 13, 1998