Forum — From the August 2015 issue

Self-Portrait with Daughters

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It was summer and I was a new father, to eight-month-old daughters. I was the pilot of a car trip: New York City to somewhere near Lake Michigan — a town called Watervliet (half-rhymes with Wounded Knee) and a lake called Paw Paw.

But first we had to get there. Every second my daughters weren’t sleeping, they were crynin’. That’s what my girls used to call crying, although that summer they couldn’t yet speak. They could only coo and cry; there was lots of crying, especially when we had to drive somewhere. The only thing that soothed them was Dylan’s tune about the horses and how tired they are. It was the only song that they’d let me play without them going nuts and hollering. All the tired horses in the sun, how’m I supposed to get any riding done?

In Michigan we were to rendezvous with my in-laws at a lakeside house they’d rented for two weeks. There was a one-room cottage behind the house; my wife and I were told we could sleep there, and our daughters would sleep in their crib inside the main house. And when, in the wee hours, the girls needed changing or feeding, the in-laws would gladly volunteer. The idea was for my wife and me, but especially for my wife, to get some sleep for the first time in eight months.

The second morning in the cute little cottage, there was a tornado. No one knew it was coming, so no one knew to take cover. I was brushing my teeth, and my wife was in the main house already.

The tornado ripped a tree out of the ground and dropped it on the roof. Our cute cottage, destroyed. No one was hurt, but the power was knocked out for the entire lakeside town. So my wife took the kids to her parents’ house in not too faraway Mishawaka, Indiana, and I stayed there, at the lake, waiting for power.

It took a while for the power to come back. For four days, I read my book in the hammock out back, by the destroyed cottage, and when I got tired of the hammock, I paddled the kayak out onto the empty lake.

I enjoyed reading my book while lying in the kayak on the lake. Very much, in fact. I liked to close my eyes behind my shades and nap.

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is a poet who lives in New York.

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