Monday, May 28, 2012

Stain (Memorial Day 2012)

my father, circa 1968
Today I remember you.
Or what there was of you.
The same stories you told me
about coming home from Nam
to be there when I was born.
Stories about getting on the 'chopper
and then me falling asleep on your chest.
And excuses for why you disappeared.
I see your photo now and then
the tears come, but just a little.
I choke them back.
The war changed you.
All smiles before,
all drunkenness after.
And I, left behind,
then found again,
then left behind,
then found again.
Years would pass with
no sign of you.
No sign except
my own reflection,
my roundish nose,
my one crookish eye,
my smile.
Today is not the only day
I think about you.
But today I am forced to
bring you out of the old suitcase
of memory
and trace my finger over
the writing on the backs of these photographs
of a young G.I.
The only handwriting of yours that I have ever seen.
The last trace of you
that I have.
The only physical things.
These photographs of a lost boy,
a lost man,
a lost father.
Gone forever from me,
but the stain of your memory
remains there in my own reflection.
My nose is yours,
my crooked left eye,
my cheeky smile;
my broken heart.

J. Valentine
my father, second from left, circa 1968