Skinny Arms, Strong Arms
by Alena Chekanov
Clinging to my father’s back as we fly home
Houses, blurred, melting from my eyes
Blinking, I can see them sharp again,
One moment more before they swim
The fierce tremor of the motorcycle
Swallowing oil and screaming up the street
Reminds me of the waves.
The beach, my father, that summer I was six
The way I learned to tame the ocean under skinny arms
Reaching through heartless currents
For the father who seemed small and weak
Among leaping giants.
I drove alone today,
Today I fell,
My skin is broken
Weeping blood from blood-soaked limbs.
The monster lurched to toss me overboard,
Branding me with pain and street
Trees fighting the sky as I’m dragged away
There’s nothing behind my eyes as I give in
When the waves buried me
My father was there
To pull me out, laughing
He said, “You did it”
As I coughed and cried.
He props the motorcycle up,
Metal obeying strong arms,
And makes me climb back on
As if the nightmare didn’t happen
You did this to me, I sit in the kitchen
Sorting the dust from the blood from the skin
You did this to me, coughing sea and sand and trust
I clutch his shoulder
Shaking, furiously shaking
Raging at the waves which tried to kidnap me
He laughs, and says, “I did it.”
And carries me home.