My Daughter at the Gymnastics Party

By David Bottoms b. 1949 David Bottoms
When I sat for a moment in the bleachers
of the lower-school gym
to watch, one by one, the girls of my daughter’s kindergarten   
climb the fat rope hung over the Styrofoam pit,
I remembered my sweet exasperated mother
and those shifting faces of injury
that followed me like an odor to ball games and practices,   
playgrounds of monkey bars
and trampolines, those wilted children sprouting daily   
in that garden of trauma behind her eyes.

Then Rachel’s turn,
the smallest child in class, and up she went, legs twined   
on the rope, ponytail swinging, fifteen, twenty,   
twenty-five feet, the pink tendrils of her leotard   
climbing without effort
until she’d cleared the lower rafters.
She looked down, then up, hanging in that balance   
of pride and fear,
                           then glancing
toward the bleachers to see if I watched, let go   
her left hand, unworried by that boy
with the waffled skull, stiff and turning blue   
under the belly of a horse,
or the Christmas Eve skater on Cagle’s Lake,   
her face a black plum
against the bottom of the ice.

David Bottoms, “My Daughter at the Gymnastics Party” from Vagrant Grace. Copyright © 1999 by David Bottoms. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271,

Source: Vagrant Grace: Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 1999)

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Poet David Bottoms b. 1949

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Parenthood, Living

 David  Bottoms


David Bottoms was born in Canton, Georgia in 1949. He earned an MA from the University of West Georgia and a PhD from Florida State University. In 1979, Bottoms won the prestigious Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets for his collection Shooting Rats at the Bibb County Dump. Robert Penn Warren, the contest’s judge, described Bottoms as “a strong poet, and much of his strength emerges from the fact that he is . . .

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SUBJECT Parenthood, Living

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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