A river next to a grassy riverbed with tall trees on the other side of the shore.

he takes me to the river every chance he gets.
We walk the same path each time, always
the one that gets us to the water the quickest— it’s hidden
now, after years of busy feet knocking around
the rocks that lined the path. We knew we were getting close
when the rocks broke off and the dirt faded
into sand, just past the dead trunk lying
in the middle of it all. Then we’d start to hear it.
The short drop-off that I’d hardly call a waterfall
spilling water over stones. We tried to go
right after it rained, when the spillage and stones clapped
loud enough to block out everything else. It never mattered
how cold the water was. Dad liked to see how far across
he could get, me burying my socks in my shoes,
rolling up my jeans as far as they’d go, scrambling
to catch up. Dad tested the sturdiness of the rocks
before I jumped from one to the next, using my toes
to grip the edges like he taught me.
We walked around like that, cold water biting at our ankles,
until we got to the wide flat stone that stuck out
smack in the middle of the river, almost as if
someone put it there to give us a place to dry off.
I’d set up on the rock— knees to my chest,
watching fish pick leaves off river weeds.
I turn back to dad, but he’s already
gone further, knee deep in the second drop-off
holding his hands under the cascade
trying to drink the water through his palms.

Photo by Reading Tom, used and adapted under CC.