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.


Photo credit: River Landscape, evening – Frits Thaulow

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