Father Love

A wisp of a girl, about four,
in a blue dress,
edges down a spiral coil
in the children’s play area
at Lake Temescal.
Her father meets her near the bottom,
wraps her in his long arms,
like a warm, thick blanket,
cushioning her fall
as she tumbles to the ground.
They repeat this scenario again and again,
as if rehearsing for a play.
Meanwhile, her older sister, about seven,
swings nonchalantly from a bar,
like a seasoned athlete.
Did her father prepare her for this,
also sheltering her with his whole being
from the free-fall of gravity?

A while later another father,
short, slight, boyish-looking,
aims his digital camera at his
two-year-old son in a red knit cap.
But the boy has other ideas,
trotting away with quick little steps,
a restless colt.
His father smiles in my direction,
then good-naturedly fails a few more times.

Having a record of his son’s living presence
at this large birthday gathering
is too important to just give up.
A woman friend wields the camera now,
as he crouches behind his son,
gently arresting the boy’s arms,
the two of them bound together forever
in the camera’s flashing light.