As I watch you struggle to launch him
up onto your wide shoulders
I realize my kingdom has been usurped.
The throne where I felt tall and safe
has been stolen by a new tiny king.
Even when I was too old
you still tossed me up there,
up in the air just like you did
when I was a baby.
In those home movies
you have a fuzzy mustache and big goofy grin
and Mom, holding the camera, lets out a soft
gasp as you throw me and I fly
higher than a baby should fly.
I am your circus baby.
Your first daughter who looks just like you
and laughs as you spin her in circles.
I am your carnival child
with frizzy hair and chicken legs
who you don’t see often, but when you do
we sing songs and play made-up games.
I am your freak show teenage girl
who outgrew everything you knew,
too heavy for your shoulders and
asking for more than bedtime stories.
Who wouldn’t speak to you for a year
but did come back
with a new balancing act
of walking on cracked, yolky eggshells.
Now, with him, you are that father again.
The one who gave bedtime stories, not guilt.
The one who gave time, not money.
The one who never yelled because everything was pretend.
But you are not his father
and seeing him sitting tall in my throne I miss
you more than ever.