The baby lies on her back
in the at space
provided by her father’s forearms stretched from his chest
as if carrying firewood.
In his palms, he holds the back of her head. She breathes in
his wordless song.
I’m afraid he will drop her,
and this walk to the library
will be marked by a bloody spot, no bigger than the books
I carry. I’m not ready
to see this death. I’m not ready to imagine it. I don’t turn
my head to look back at them after they pass.
I want to keep it—
that feeling of both
peace and worry in seeing
him hold his child
like an offering
while mumbling to the sky.
I feel the father’s hands
and the daughter’s smallness push against the inside
of my skull. My walk is slow.
I feel my body wanting
to settle into the silence between heartbeats.
Don’t let me, father, walk off your palms into the quiet
we do not seek.
—Eliana Swerdlow is a sophomore in Pierson College.
Illustration by Paige Davis.