I walk my four-year-old along the
face of the department store.
She teeters up on spindly legs to
reach for a raincoat with a
Jolly Roger and crossed cutlasses.
Ahrr! Pirate raincoat.
Too late for that one.
It’s summer. By the time it
rains again, you’ll be a
whole different size.
I’ll be hooj!
What’s a pirate’s favorite letter?
I know! Ahrr!
Nope, I say. The C.
Pirates love the C.
Daddy! You cheated.
But honey. Jokes don’t have rules.
That’s why they’re jokes.
She chews on a strand of hair and
studies a pair of galoshes with cat faces.
Daddy? Tell me again.
Why I don’t exist.
On the important questions,
I have learned that eye-level is best.
I kneel and brush the hair from her face.
It’s a lot of different things.
I’ve never made a lot of money.
I have a knack for meeting
women at the wrong time.
Some of the women had
problems I couldn’t solve.
Well, one was a drunk.
One had trouble controlling her brain.
Two had sexual hangups.
One was just a mean psychopathic bitch.
It takes a lot for two
people to have children together.
You have to be ready;
things have to work just right.
And now, I’m too old to start.
She chews on a thumb.
Are you sad?
Sometimes. But I have nieces,
nephews, children of friends.
She flails her arms.
But I don’t exist!
I tap a finger on my temple.
Up here you do.
That’s cause you’re a dough-wit.
A poet, yes.
Come on, let’s get a cup of coffee.
Daddy, kids don’t drink coffee!
I take her hand and lead her
upstairs to the Caffe Pergolesi.
She grabs a cluster of
honeysuckle and holds it to her nose.
She looks so much like her mother.
From the collection Fields of Satchmo
Photo by MJV