Emily at the Playground

for Emily Pestana (1964-2002)

I take them to the playground
at night.

Naomi, the oldest,
gets to play by herself.
She climbs the jungle-gym,
silent, moving through the bars,
her hands slick on the steel.
I watch her for a second,
she’s nothing but blonde ringlets,
streetlights shoot off her.

And Emily and I go to our swings.
She’s the forgotten child,
our relatives say. The quiet one,
the one who we sometimes let disappear.
So I swing her here first, alone,
my hands on either side of her,
pushing, catching.

As she swings,
I stand behind her,
and sometimes I’d like to look inside
her small, dark eyes.
What’s going on in there.

Instead, I whisper things in her ear.

“Emily at the Playground,” Mississippi Review 15:3 (Spring 1987): 59-65.