My father on the diving board

October 25, 2017

His body browned from working in a heat
that blistered paint and cooked the summer grass
to needle sharp, my father climbed the rungs
of wet metal up to the fiberglass

cat’s tongue above the public swimming pool.
Chlorine singed my nose, dyed my sisters’ hair
from blond to seasick green, and horseflies bit
us as they swarmed the heat-thinned humid air.

But it was worth it all to see my father
dive. He, before the cancer wormed its way
out of his menthol smokes into his lungs,
pushed a shovel all week, then Saturday

would swim. He slowly backed until the board
dipped low and bowed up in the middle, then,
from toes tensed taut as ten piano strings,
the suntan oil gleaming on his skin,

flipped like a silver dollar in the air,
and plunged into the cooling cavity
to show how even weightless grace depends
on the unflinching force of gravity.