Speaking as a father to a young daughter, Adam Hughes explores the gap between expectation and reality–parental promise and parental failure.
On Plans to Build My Daughter a Tipi
It will have to be big. Big enough for all three of us
and two or three
dogs. Big enough for toys and a bed
and for the moon and the sound of the creek.
Its poles will need to be lodgepole pine
or sycamore or whatever they have at the local hardware store.
They should be straight and tall
like the rods that held
the ark of the covenant.
The covering will not be buffalo. It will
need to be some sort of canvas,
but a kind that’s not too expensive. It will need
to be beige. There should be stakes
to hold it down when the Ohio wind comes through
and tries to get warm inside. There will be no
buffalo skull. No buffalos will be involved in any way.
Or bison for that matter.
We will find a place for it along the creek, an area
I just learned is called the riparian zone.
Our tipi will be a riparian one. She has
between buffalo and bison. She has no idea
I’m making her a tipi. Which is good,
because then it won’t disappoint her when I don’t.
I once built a swing—
which is almost like building a tipi.
One day—of course not now, when the winter
skies are full of cement
and the riparian trees
offer nothing of value—we’ll lay amidst the teardrops
on a floor of grass and count the stars
through the smokehole. She’ll be amazed
that she can count them—maybe fifteen
at most—and she’ll probably say
“Daddy, those stars are lucky
because we’re letting them see in.
Those other stars, the outside ones,
don’t know how warm it is in here.”
I’ll wonder when her eyes
turned that particular shade of spark.
Then her mom will pick her up
and I’ll go back inside the tipi and the grass
will smell like her hair and I’ll become
one of those outside stars.
And then I’ll remember why
I didn’t build the tipi.
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Photo by milou /Flickr