The Fun of Running Back and Forth

Running back and forth from the living room
to the kitchen of that small apartment
with my younger brother, carrying magazines,
is my first memory of having fun, rolling them up

tight in the way I invented and showed him,
since the idea was to sneak up behind
our father and spank him, each of us shrieking
with delight when we made him reach out

to us, turning away from our mother
with her head bowed over the dishpan,
and when he went back to his shouting, we ran
for more magazines to surprise my father,

who had never shouted, but did now
because she wouldn’t stop suspecting his lie,
his betrayal, which my brother and I, just three
and four, knew nothing about then, only

wanting to keep on laughing about the fun
of forcing our father, who would leave
again soon, this time for good,
to turn back and reach out to us,

so our mother would not go on
with her crying anymore, and make us cry.

Follow McNair’s thinking about this poem through his revisions of it. (Line changes are highlighted in yellow; revised line breaks are indicated by yellow verticals.)