Do You Realize?

by Kevin Grauke

Wrapped mummy-tight in the bright blue and pink stripes of every American hospital, you were the length of my forearm as I cradled you warm against me – you, this larval thing with a blooming human face of dark eyes staring studiously into mine as I sang to you with such pristine sincerity that the old me, so cynical and single, would have blanched, if not pretended to retch in true disgust. This was a full-bloodedness I’d never known, an instantaneous love threatening to burst me. Now you’re newly twenty, while I’m merely twenty more. The band from Oklahoma City that wrote what I sang to you is in town only two days after your birthday, celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the album on which that song appeared. Astrology’s stars have never aligned so immaculately. Your mother bought tickets for the three of us, a fitting celebration of you. Since toddling days, you’ve loved the title song about the brave karate girl who fights pink robots, never knowing anything of the other one I used to sing to you – the one that asks about your face, whether you’re aware of its peerless beauty. When the band played your song, you were ecstatic, bouncing in place just as you’d once done on chubbier, much less steady legs, while lights and confetti of all colors and shapes made a festival of the air around us. I stood behind you, watching you, my now grown girl, such a wily fighter in your own right, and was proud. But when grizzled Wayne finally sang mine, the one you’ve always called way too sad to listen to, I pulled you close and kissed the crown of your head, right where the scar you were born with lies, a tiny halo hidden by hair. And all I did was listen.

Kevin Grauke has published work in such places as The Threepenny Review, The Southern Review, Cimarron Review, Sycamore Review, and Quarterly West. His collection, Shadows of Men (Queen’s Ferry), won the Steven Turner Award from the Texas Institute of Letters. Originally from Texas, he teaches at La Salle University in Philadelphia.