Monday, November 20, 2006

"The Lost Girls"

By Robert Combs

two little girls
one fair
one dark
are running hand in hand
through a sunny house dressed
in red and white checkered dresses
with puffed sleeves
ribbons and bows
they run away from me
it's just a dream
but I am happy
when I wake I will feel no sadness
I have seen them again
I am comforted that somewhere
they still are

is it strange
to carry inside you a new life growing
to know it before it's born
to see at last
is it a boy or a girl
with perfect fingers and toes
to feel it nurse at your breast
to know this tiny life as well
as you know yourself

any father knows
you own it as you made it
you are the authority upon it
you are responsible for it

but they grow and you know them less
accidents and adventures
become their own as you lose track
still you know more about them than anyone
but little by little
the child dies
replaced by someone you thought you knew
gradually you are discarded
they argue with you
or ignore you or worse
they are kind to you
they who begged to follow
find imitation no more fun
they make few demands yet
you are grateful for those few

one day they will sit in my living room
an authority upon themselves
they'll show their husbands and children
my photo albums
and I will look too
and realize
the little girls in matching dresses
the fair one carrying her Cinderella
tin lunch box teaching
her puppy to come down the slide
is lost to me
just as the small one
with ebony pigtails
who played so often at my feet
is lost

but the world in which these two
wear bright red winter coats
and matching hats with fuzzy balls on top
exists so uncannily that
after I've seen the pictures
I believe in them
the bandage one has coming loose
in the photo of the other's birthday
the castles they are building at the beach
the puppies
report cards
boyfriends and tears
proms and boutonnieres
used cars and college
and loneliness
today I look at them
and all the old sure
knowledge bleeds back over me
and I put it down
I did know those children
I knew all about them
when did I lose them
how did I let them get away

I catch myself staring
at them when they visit now
try to find the children they

Writer Robert Combs is a single father living in Natchez, Mississippi. He has four daughters and four grandchildren.

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