180 THE MISSOURI REVIEW • SPRING 2019
When I Was Ten I Was My Father
In a box in our suburban basement,
beside my father’s Bronze Stars and
Purple Hearts, I found a pair of old
cowboy boots, the sides stamped
with fancy Western swirls and curls.
Rich coppery leather filled my nose
and when I placed them on the cold
cement, slipped my bare toes inside,
felt the contours of his feet on mine,
I imagined him before he fathered
eight children, before he met my mom
in Boston, before he even went to war.
I imagined even I was him, both of us
blond and wild-eyed and ten years old,
but also forty, the way you see your
past and future in your parents’ faces.
I am standing in the backyard of his
youth, caressing the coarse hair of the
chestnut mare his dad brought home
from work so he could ride out of town,
into the mountains to fish the creek
in the cool Utah evening dark.
I whisper softly in the horse’s ear,
tell her if she doesn’t have a father
then maybe I could do the job.
Who knows what our parents believed
before we existed? Who knows the
pains of their living, except we see them
in our own beating hearts.