Dada- Age 1

by Jennifer Donnell

He keeps saying it,

babbles the term like he knows what it means

and we wince and interject with mama,



and joyously raise him over our heads the way 

a dada would and make silly faces,

until he erupts in enthusiastic giggles.

And we hope that's enough love,

to get him through the day

when he inevitably wonders


and, was it him,

or asks why you didn't stay

the way you wish your own father had

and cries out 

from the pain of knowing you didn't love him

more than yourself.

Or, becomes a father himself

and holds his son with the care you couldn't

and hates you

like I hate you, on his behalf.

Even the therapist, with all she knows about human 

behavior says, Charlie, 

I mean how could anyone not

adore Charlie, 

and she looks at him through the eyes a father

ought, filled with joy,

having seen him grow.

But he still makes that sound dada,



not knowing you're gone yet,

not knowing he ought unlearn 

the word sooner than later,

fast as he can for the both of us.

I turn on the computer and he calls it dada.

My oldest plays peek-a-boo and boisterously

swings him about in his arms, the way men do.

I tell him be gentle, extra gentle,

and he reassures,

mom, I'm pretty much the only man

he sees, I'll always be careful.

And the baby looks up at him and says dada.