Goofy was piloting a paddle-wheeler
in your favorite cartoon when I awoke.
Your arm at the same time as his pulled
the steam whistle, a jaw hinged open
to fill our living room with its cry
at every landing. Then sudden wind and rain,
so Goofy tossed aside his captain’s hat
and donned a wizard’s conical display
of sun and moon and stars. Waves
breaking over the wheel he spun
and held fast again with white-gloved hands,
he dodged every sandbar and floating tree.
He joined you in crying Yah-hoo, his two teeth
shining, nose and tonsils quivering,
ears like streamers in the prevailing wind.
On that mild January day that began
aboard a paddle-steamer, we pulled over
at the base of an abandoned quarry
beside the river. The first collectible you found
—it looked like Goofy’s nose—they call
a gastropod; and so, my seven-year-old son,
you held 400 million years in your hands.
Then we sat on the bank looking out over
the ice. I asked what kind of distance
you had in your arm, promised a birthday bicycle
if you reached the pressure ridge
where the current was thrust up in plates–
a dinosaur’s back, you called it.
I fed you stones, none of them collectible.
Brett Favre’s arm, you shouted, Yah-hoo, then
you were running out to retrieve the champion.
Ah, Christ, after three steps I broke through
up to my waist–no wizard, no wizard at all.
This morning I awoke to your sister watching
Goofy in his pilothouse. I’ve come to the river
but not to bring back collectibles. Midsummer,
your dinosaur waits to surface again,
while in the channel you reached there’s only
a towboat with sealed barges and its wake.