Blurred on top of water
is the image of a father in a pool
where there’s also a large snake
or in a different pool without a snake
—a pool where there was a snake once
at a hotel on a long vacation
because the father is dying
and the child doesn’t know it,
or to throw up water
it has swallowed
caught underneath the surface.

If the sun were always that sun at the park
I wouldn’t have lost the photo of us.
Me missing teeth, you with dog tags on,
a thing to be proud of as a child
is proud of war and how the father
could work in an office afterward.

Floating on the water
the adult child wants sunblindness,
a reminder of passing,
the heat only another unanswerable question
of what to do fifteen years later
with the dead father’s shirts,
books he read once, the sake
of an absence signified.

Now in relation to earlier floating
or trying to float maybe.

Michelle Betters is a Boston-based writer. She currently covers politics and public policy for ATTN: and blogs for Ploughshares. Her poetry has most recently appeared in Queen Mob’s Teahouse.