For My Father

On Your Thirty-Ninth Birthday

We walk on woodchips in October

while he sings the Beatles.

His hands are so large, calloused:

my baseball mitts.

Those same hands that place a waterski in my own,

that knead seven-year-old spines

whisper of sparrows

and gold nuggets every night.

This is the same man who illegally weights

our blue Weeblo race cars (we win)

and ferries birthday parties of six-year-olds

around in the green go-cart he built himself.

In winter he becomes Chanukah Harry

with a long martial artist’s braid.

Every summer he is the River King,

flanked by egrets and swallows,

a rooster tail pluming out behind him

as his body skids just inches above the water.

He tows cousins, endures every “one last time,”

follows teen rowers carving oar in eddy.

He sings the Beatles one rainy day in February,

injecting oranges with insulin.

He always leaves the sprinklers on too long

so we can sprint after leprechauns.

Hands so rough yet perfect for shaking.

Ocean child with windy hair, he sings.

Gentle Pop with holiday eyes, she sings back.

Happy birthday,

she loves you all across the universe.