Father and Son

Submitted by Ronald E. Shields


My father worked and read.
He drank and laughed.
There was no other way.
Thirty years in the Marine Corps –
then left to find his place in this world.
Fractured by war, I am left with a black scar.
A black swan rising from the tar of torment and doubt.
Tarnished stars and scarlet ribbons
parade through my dreams, emblems of a dead soul.
A hero’s nightmare is no tomb from which to rise.
Hatred could have been a shudder in my father’s soul.
Silence could have been a frock for anger.
Once a young man fleeing poverty,
he returned from Korea furious for freedom,
plagued by desires and limits.
I no longer speak the common language.
A ghost in my country, cold with loneliness.
I ride the barges on the Mississippi River.
I have no roots but the ones I drag behind.
I am poor.
The river will freeze over in winter.
In time, the ice will break, I will follow my father.
Our ashes will mingle with silt and flow to the Gulf,
the way snow drifts in the from the west
to fall and melt and find its place on this world.

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Photo credit: River Landscape, evening – Frits Thaulow


Published by

The Vita Brevis Team

“Ars longa, vita brevis" (art is long, life is short). This maxim so moved us that it seemed only right to title our online poetry magazine after it. It may seem curious that we chose Vita Brevis (life is short) as our title instead of Ars Longa (art is long). But this choice was more than appropriate; after all, the aim of our journal is to publish work that shows a keen awareness of not only art’s beauty and immortality but life’s toils and finiteness. We want to revive and nourish the rich existential literature that forms when art and the human endeavor collide.

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