Leaving the party she takes his hand,
slips on the icy sidewalk, squeezes
his hand to steady herself, laughs
a child’s laugh. She tells him she hopes
he’ll like the present she’s made.
She imagines the presents she’ll get.
Hand in hand they go through crackling
cold December night, her voice so bright
like moonlight on a field of snow,
so happy. As if she’s forgotten
how scary an angry father can be,
how scary the brooding silences.
But tonight he’s a man who knows
what he’s got. And tonight is Christmas Eve:
presents are waiting beneath the tree,
each one, to his daughter, a dream,
a desire, a wish, a new beginning.
Tonight she takes her father’s hand
like a child who’s not afraid.
—from Rattle #8, Winter 1997
W.D. Ehrhart: “My daughter’s name is Leela, and she thinks I’m ‘an okay guy, in spite of [myself].’”