“Why Otters Hold Hands”—From Bill Walsh’s soon to be published poetry collection,
Fly Fishing in Times Square.
Atlanta writer Bill Walsh directs the Reinhardt University MFA Creative Writing Program. This poem strikes a note of longing, especially in those watching the twilight of childhood in their youngest kid.
Why Otters Hold Hands
I want to live in a small town like Lakewood,
where the fastest thing is a sailboat without wind.
I want to know the world is safe for my daughter,
that I never have to share my failures, a place,
where, if I ever lose my religion again, someone
will return it to my house, ring the bell
and if I am not home, they will leave
it on the mat. I want a kid selling scout popcorn
or Christmas paper to stop me at the grocery store
and I want a kid on every corner selling Kool-Aid
from a card table, and a kid asking to rake my leaves.
I want the woman down the street to wear her bikini
while pushing the mower. I want a parade through town
every Fourth of July, and I want Friday fish fries
at the church. I want to hear my daughter singing
in the shower while I’m cooking spaghetti, straining
the angel hair while she’s crowing like Iris Dement,
lost to herself, having forgotten the rest of the world can hear her.
I want to sit at the kitchen table, listening, just listening.
There’s so much, and yet, I can never have it again:
Dora the Explorer, helicopter rides, or watching a documentary
on The Life of Otters, how we laughed
at the Dog Fails on YouTube, scrunched up together on the sofa
eating popcorn with too much salt, dripping with butter,
and drinking Cokes on a school night.
I want my daughter to walk with me
in the mall and not down the other side
like I am an alien, the family embarrassment
who mortifies her. Because,
this morning, at the cross county meet
my daughter shooed me away when I stood too close
to the school tent talking to the other parents.
Loosening up, the girls stretch, run wind sprints
toward womanhood. There’s no chance of her winning this race,
just work on your best time, I told her. She shooed me away again.
I know this is the future, what I haven’t quite prepared for.
There will be other, more important, races, I want to say.
The field is stacked with nearly two hundred girls,
most giggling about something the parents don’t understand.
As she pushes forward through the crown of girlhood,
I remember the otters holding hands while sleeping
so they won’t drift apart.
November 10, 2018