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First Line: Across the field, the wood
Subject(s): D Day (june 6, 1944); Veterans; World War Ii; Normandy (france), Invasion Of; Second World War

Across the field, the wood
Shudders under lilac cloud
Which an hour ago was a bird
And is now a shroud,
Draping the leafless trees
With filigree rain-gauze:
A handful of sun flukes
Gilding the drab trunks
My father and I watch.
Are we about to catch
A burst of orange afterglow,
Or will the evening go
Headlong down to night?
With the slow weight
Of a man dragging chains
He has managed to remain
On track through his tour
Of flashbacks from the war
Four fog-soaked years
Of square-bashing and canvas;
The sick, flat-bottomed dash
Of D-Day; the frothy wash
Of waves inside his tank
As it stalled and sank;
The hell for leather advance
While the lanes of France
Shrank bottle-tight, blazing;
The ash-wreck of Berlin.
All this is by heart of course,
All at his own pace
Now dust has settled again
And fear, grief, boredom, pain
Have found a way to fade
Into the later life he made.
But I still look at him -
The way his eyes take aim
And hold the wood in focus
Just in case anonymous
And twilit-baffled trees
Might in fact be enemies
Advancing - I still look at him
And cannot estimate the harm
Still beating in his head
But hidden in his words.
What might he have done?
What might I have done
Frightened for my life
To make my future safe?
Did he kill a man?
Did he fire the gun
With this crumpled finger
Which now lifts and lingers
On the swimming glass
And points out how the mass
Of cloud above the wood
Has melted from a shroud
Into a carnival mask?
I never dare to ask.
I would rather not show
The appetite to know
How much of his own self
He shattered on my behalf.
He is my father; my father;
And from him all I gather
Are things that he allows,
Turning from the window
When in time the sky
Buries the wood entirely,
Then starting my road home
With him at liberty to dream
Through the hours before sleep
And the silences he keeps.

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