This past week I was at a lake with parents and grandparents and uncles and aunts and children, the grownups piloting boats around for hours on end so the kids could fish or waterski or tube behind it. Endless making of lunches, endless baiting of hooks. Endless how to wakeboard, how to waterski, how to play poker. Endless patience. Thirty years from now, these same future grownups will be hauling a new batch of kids around behind a different boat. I thought about the adults in my own childhood who taught me how to cook, how to sew, how to stack wood, how to tell a story, how to grow a garden. One day your father’s hauling you up the sledding hill on the toboggan, the next your eyes are glazing over as you teach your kids how to play Candyland, the next you’re sitting in a bar with them drinking Guinness. This small-but-huge poem by Tom Sleigh chokes me up when I read it, for so many reasons.
The sidelong whiplash of his arm sent the boomerang
soaring, pushing the sky to the horizon
until the blade just hung there, a black slash on the sun
so far away it seemed not to move at all
before it came whirling back larger and larger:
would it hit him, would he die — and you ducked down,
terrified, clinging to his thigh, its deathspin
slowing as it coptered softly down and he snatched it
from the air. How you loved that rush of fear,
both wanting and not wanting him to feel how hard
you clung, just the same as when he’d float you
weightless across the pond while waves slapped
and shushed and bickered, his breath loud in your ear …
and after he dried you off, he’d lift you onto his shoulders
and help you shove your head through a hole in the sky.
For more information on Tom Sleigh, please click here.