Preparatory Science Fair

Mary Karr

There are the fathers lithe as young cheetahs,
who fashioned their bodies with cardio and no carbs,
whose shoes once were reptiles.
They differ in fiber from
this nearly dead father,
who survived the transplant, but now
feels his huge borrowed heart giving out.

His chest wears a frayed lightning bolt beneath
celery-green shirt. He must fight puffing to kneel
at his son’s aquarium,
where the dumb angelfish silently
bubble and dart, flicker
with sequin-finned ease. When he grips
the table to rise, sweat drops on the pine finish.

The man starving for breath, alert, gulps down
each atom of it. The mom twists on a smile.
The boy slashes his net
like a saber against
some rich man’s
blue-ribboned son till
the wounded father draws him close,
and the held boy grins in that smothering hug.

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