As he holds his wife’s hand, the nurse tells him to
breathe. He will be a good father. He 
could be. His wife tows a boat on land with her teeth. 
Don’t worry. Good father. Breathe. Later,
everyone smiles when he jogs with the stroller. He 
feigns interest in ponies. He pushes a swing and his daughter
giggles. He applies sunblock, and 
helps warm the bottle, and he is
inducted into the fatherly hall of fame. He 
jumps on the trampoline, and the chorus sings Good Father. He wipes
ketchup off her cheek at the zoo, and the old women 
laud. He is told he is a new breed of
man. Evolved. His knuckles just barely or
never scraping the ground. He hugs
often enough, packs her lunch, and the crowd 
pours on the applause. He lays her down for 
quiet time. It goes somewhat well. 
Rejoice, the people shout, for here is a
saint, as he lifts diapers to the conveyor belt.
Truthfully, he feels slightly
unwell. A bowl of plastic fruit is pretty, but 
vaguely toxic. He sleeps fine
without a mouth affixed to his chest. His bottle of
Xanax is half full. The nurse says,
You will be a good father. He jogs with the stroller. He reaches the
zenith of a very small hill. 

Copyright © 2024 by Keith Leonard. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 4, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.