Two books reprinted as a single volume
Robert gives an overview of the book:
Throwing his small, blond son
into the air, he begins to feel it,
a slow-motion quivering, some part
broken loose and throbbing with its own pulse,
like the cock's involuntary leaping
toward whatever shadow looms in front.
It is below his left shoulder blade,
a blip regular as radar, and he thinks of wings
and flight, his son's straight soar and fall
out of and into his high-held hands.
He is amused by the quick change
on the boy's little face: from the joy
of release and catch, to the near terror
at apex. It is the same with every throw.
And every throw comes without
his knowing. Nor his son's. Again
and again, the rise and fall, like breathing,
again the joy and fear, squeal and laughter,
until the world becomes a swarm of shapes
around him, and his arms
go leaden and prickled, and he knows
the sound is no longer laughter
but wheezing, knows he holds his son
in his arms and has not let him fly
upward for many long moments now.
He is on his knees, as his son stands,
supporting him, the look in the child's face
something the man has seen before:
not fear, not joy, not even misunderstanding,
but the quick knowledge sons
must come to, at some age
when everything else is put aside-
the knowledge of death, the stench
of mortality-that fraction of an instant
even a child can know, when
his father does not mean to leave, but goes.
I was born in the Midwest but have lived nearly all of my adult life in Idaho. I studied writing at the University of Montana, with Madeline DeFrees and Richard Hugo, in the mid-seventies, and I now teach in the MFA program in writing at the University of Idaho. Awards I've...