Swaying from the swingset to the sound of the icecream truck,
one time in a hundred Dad gives us a dollar,
we run out to the truck and wait in the line of kids.
Night after night the neighborhood boys
gather in my yard because I have the one dad
on the block who plays with us all.
I get to be the pitcher when Dad is up to bat,
the only kid who can throw it half-straight,
or, at least, that’s what he lets me believe.
The water meter is first base, the mailbox second
the corner of the sidewalk third.
We all know the routine invented
by the brilliant mind of my much-adored Dad,
who always sees a game in the making
wherever he goes.
On Saturdays he sometimes takes us down the
short-cut to the donut shop on our bikes,
I’m convinced it’s a secret passage.
He coaches all my little league sports,
makes me feel like I can be the best,
even better than the boys,
and so I am.
When I’m older, with different coaches,
He comes by the bench at half-time,
“It’s up to you,” he tells me,
“and you can make it happen.
Driiiiive to the basket” he adds with fervor
in that funny emphasis only a quiet man
can muster, silly grin on the face that
is trying to make me take this game—
and my role in it—more seriously.
He makes me feel like a star,
Though neither of us are much for pretention,
I’m his star, that much is clear.
I play like he plays, and we both know it,
and I try to be even more like him,
with his uncanny ability to hit a shot,
to sneak a steal, to surprise everyone
despite the skinniest arms you’ve ever seen
on the court. He is one of the gentlest
people I know, and the very first person
to teach me I can be aggressive.
It takes me a really long time to learn,
but he is exceedingly patient.
I never do play football with the cousins;
being the only girl never stopped me before,
I just honestly don’t know how,
but I’m still proud to see my dad out there.
The only grown-up in the mix
the adults inside chatting,
my dad outside playing and playing and playing,
I feel cool by default.
Hours and hours and hours on the driveway,
He never seems to tire as my rebounder.
Mile after mile we run together,
and tire he does, but on he runs.
First he teaches me I can run an entire mile—
I do not believe. And years later, as I outrun him
instead, he doesn’t even complain,
just lets me feel victorious.
He still remembers my stats from ten years ago
like they happened yesterday;
it’s good to be remembered.
Even now, I’m his star.
Even now, we look for a moment to sneak some hoops.