Lewis had a bar mitzvah…

And I wrote him a poem.

**

Just a Dolphin

For Lewis, on his bar mitzvah, in the middle of a pandemic

 

“Get in the water,” I tell him.

“There’s no shark, and you won’t drown.”

We’re at the ocean, and there is a shark.

There’s always a shark somewhere.

 

Also, the tide never stops hunting,

only rests from time to time.

This is how we live, by lying.

By stepping  into the surf

with our eyes closed,

for the simple reward of lunch on the sand,

hair all tangled, lips salty, eyes bright.

 

When I tell my kid he’s going back to school,

he looks at me like I’m the sun,

squinting into my gaze

as though he can’t quite see me or anything else.

 

“It’s not safe,” he says.

“The teacher pulls her mask down to talk.

Everyone’s always touching everyone else.

Four kids were out today,

and Anna was coughing in science.

Did you know I have to take my mask off

to eat lunch? If I want to eat.”

 

“You want to eat,” I say sharply.

But he’s looking at me like I’m the sun again.

Like I might hurt him.  He’s scared of the world but also me,

and I’m not certain.

 

So I nod and say it louder,

like it’s a thing I actually know.

“You want to eat.”

Only for some reason I shake when I say this.

“You want to eat you want to eat

you have to want to eat,” I say. “Okay?”

“Okay,” he nods.

 

And suddenly, we’re just two people

sitting in the sand and I’m not the sun anymore.

He’s not squinting. Instead, we’re staring

at the waves, the world.

 

“Everyone’s always touching

everyone else,” he says. “It’s awful.”

“I know,” I say.  “I’m sorry.”

And when in the distance, a gray fin

breaks the surface of the water,

we watch it rise,

then disappear.

 

“That was a dolphin,” I say quickly.

I look at my kid, beside me.

I see him breathing  and remember to breathe too.

He stares at the water, then back at me.

 

“I know it,” he says.

“Just a dolphin,” he says.

Then, suddenly there’s a dazzle,

and I have to squint to look at him.

He’s too bright.

He’s fierce and shining

with what he’s learned to do.

Leave a Reply