I was standing on a cliff above a roiling sea—
my father, from behind the morning paper,
relayed his distressing dream while I crunched Wheaties.
You and your mother were drowning—
I held the spoon aloft, dripping milk.
I knew I could only save one of you.
Who did you choose? I asked.
I wondered if he’d shared the dream with her—
told her he’d chosen me.
Years after, my father, who couldn’t swim,
ventured too far into the Atlantic—caught
in a rip tide, his flailing cries triggered
summer camp skills: swim with the current,
roll him onto his back, hook the crook
of elbow under chin—half his heft,
I freighted 200 pounds of panic to shore.
Later, he told my mother I tried to kill him.