“In Response to Anyone Who Asks” by Josh Rathkamp

Josh Rathkamp


She has grown wild
curls flaring from behind her ears.

She prefers blue
bears and crayons.

When we walk through the airport
people smile. On the plane,

a woman sitting next to us
tells me how the puzzles and


I downloaded on my iPad
are a sign of good fatherhood.

And at once I want to ask her
to write a testimonial, to tell

whoever needs to know:
my daughter

the whole way home, all twelve
hours of layovers

in the Minneapolis airport,
the repeated tram rides

and trying ten dollars
worth of the grabber machine

to lift the blue bunny I felt so bad
I couldn’t reach,

I couldn’t make the claw
wrap tight, but still

my daughter looked up, told me
next time, Dada, next time.

What about that makes me good?
Aren’t I the opposite, begging

to believe that a man like me
is good for a girl like her,

a girl who drives around the block
in a yellow convertible.

If I flip a switch
on the dashboard, I get to remote

control my daughter, turn her around,
make sure she doesn’t stray

into intersections when she plays
with other kids across grass

and class and gender.
We sit back and watch

or get involved—throw a ball,
bend down as far

as our bad backs allow
to draw hopscotch squares

against the driveway. Every word
out of my neighbor’s mouth is “no.”

Every word out of my own is “Shit,
I don’t know.”

What about that makes me good?

from Rattle #41, Fall 2013
Tribute to Single Parent Poets

[download audio]


Josh Rathkamp: “When I was a kid I begged my parents to let me write a poem or a story for my allowance instead of shoveling the driveway or mowing the lawn. Now, as a parent myself, I can’t believe they walked out into the freezing cold or walked lines behind an engine that wanted to eat everything it saw. That had to be sacrifice. I can only hope it was for a greater good.” (website)

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