My Father’s Fingers

My father’s fingers are long and strong
When I was little they taught me how to
cast a fishing pole
catch a baseball
shoot a rifle
As a child I would ride on his shoulders
Taller than everyone, my head touching the ceiling

Eldest of seven brothers
I think my father would have preferred sons
sturdy boys who could
hit a ball over the fence
win every race
climb trees without fear

Not a daughter who preferred books to sports
While I wanted to find wood nymphs in the forest
he would teach me how to find north
I wanted to befriend the rabbits
he told me stories of hunting
We would listen to Merle Haggard songs
while I daydreamed stories to match the words

My body always let me down
never strong enough, never coordinated
I always got straight A’s at school
but I couldn’t understand the joys of cross country skiing
And then my body betrayed me even more
by growing breasts

When my father hugs me, his grip is always strong enough
to crush me
But I’m always standing on the fringe with him
a mystery he cannot comprehend
My father’s fingers are strong
but not strong enough to make me the person he wanted me to be