FATHERS, THEN & NOW

In the old snapshot he holds
our firstborn out along the length
of his arm, as if to inspect a rare folio
or view an artifact newly dug up
from deepest earth. Her head’s cupped
in his palm, her feet propped
in the crook of his arm–the two
of them face to face, amazed
at this tremulous encounter.

These days I see young fathers tuck
a baby under one arm like a football
or pack it casually between elbow
and ribcage like a bundle of laundry.
I love how the babies dangle,
heads bobbing cheerfully,
wrappings trailing–some
half-asleep, some watching
wide-eyed this world sail by.

In the supermarket, a father
wanders by me past the display
of pumpkins, Indian corn and cider.
He wears his baby buckled to his chest
like a catcher’s shield, holding
a Starbucks grande in one hand
a cellphone in the other.
The child’s head lolls, she’s falling
asleep, floppy as a doll, her eyes
half-shut, dark glassy puddles.
The skin of her fat arms gleams
like satin ribbon. He’s asking
do they need butter, what about
the spareribs special…

Following after the pair, I push my cart
with its spare harvest in their wake
as far as the meat counter. Not
that I need any meat today–only
to bask together with them
in the glow of all that bounty.