by Robert Evans
When my daughter was two
we set out to go sledding;
first layers of sweaters and snowsuits
until she was a small spherical bundle,
then sanding the rust off runners,
then the thermos of cocoa for later.
At the crest of Deadman’s Hill
I put my darling aboard. Hold on tight
I said, I’ll have my legs around you
and steer with my feet. She giggled.
As I bent to tie my bootlace the sled
and Phoebe slid silently away.
All the memories and hopes I had
for her rose in a lump to my throat
as I stood rooted there
watching her descent. She picked up
terrific speed, became airborne
at every bump, whizzed across the bow
of an eight-man toboggan, side-swiped
a larger sled, never let go, never fell,
diminished to a dot, finally still.
Then I could run to her.
Well she made it, and I
made it through being a father,
but what I’ll remember is
how she slipped away.
Robert W. Evans has been writing poetry for the last 30 of his 75 years. He was one of the founders of Waverley Writers, a Palo Alto California poets group, which has been in existence since 1981. In 1994 he received a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. He works full-time as an arborist in the San Francisco mid-peninsula. His other interests include hiking and nature photography. His one child, Phoebe, is a jeweler with a shop in Capitola, California. She is now 47.
His most recent publication was in the anthology: “A Bird as Black as the Sun: California Poets on Crows and Ravens” (2011)
I found “On Runners” several years ago in John Fox‘s book, Poetic Medicine, and I’m grateful to John for getting me in touch with Robert Evans. The poem has always stayed with me as I’ve watched my daughters grow up. Here’s a bit of what Robert said about the poem in Fox’s book: “I wrote this poem about sixteen years after the sledding incident….Phoebe on the sled was a profound metaphor for the separation I felt when she left home.”
2 thoughts on “On Runners”
What a scary story!
My kids were 25 when they left home, so I didn’t feel quite the anxiety about letting them go. But I remember when they went off to Denver by themselves for the first time, at ages about 17 and 14. I was petrified. It turns out they ran into flooding on the way home, and got lost taking the detour through Commerce City, but had the good sense not to let me know about it until they were safely home.
It seems to me that parenting is all about realizing over and over that no matter how hard I try, I can’t protect my kids from everything. Your kids were very considerate, Karen, which doesn’t surprise me at all!