I wrote this poem as part of a new series of what I’m calling “father” poems.
K I T E
My father likes to fly kites at the beach in Saugatuck, Michigan, or at the park when he comes to visit me in Northern California. He keeps a kite in my closet for those visits, lodged in between the silver plunger from Pottery Barn, a painted old stepladder and all of my glass Ball jars full of snack food. I don’t know how to fly a kite, and I’ve never asked him to teach me. Maybe as an air sign, I crave being grounded, but I love that U2 song about not knowing good-bye. That is, after all, what a kite is—it can never be let go of the way we let go of people, even when we love them.
I thought of my dad when I saw Ai Wei Wei’s @Large exhibit in Alcatraz a few months ago. On one of the kites, he included a quote from Le Quoc Quan: “My words are well-intended and innocent.” I don’t know if more powerful words have been written, but to see them imprinted on a kite that will never fly seems apropos, somehow, of the love I hold fast. My words, like my heart, are well-intended and innocent, yet they are weighed down with so much history, and history is an albatross or a frigate. I know absolutely nothing anymore, so I wonder what it’s like to fly a kite as I clench my fists around all of this exquisite freedom.