HOMELAND IN AN OLD WAR
In Burke’s Pharmacy on the corner
of Six Mile Road, cartoon faces—Fatso,
Ratso and Japso—leer from a garish poster
next to a sign with slashing letters:
Loose Lips Sink Ships.
I ask my mother what is it
I should not say.
At the Varsity Market we spend our ration
coupons, deposit balls of tin foil,
cooking grease, smashed cans.
Newspapers and magazines go to school
where Rubber Drive Day
my Popeye and Olive Oyl lie side by side
on a heap of boots and tires.
In our basement, flames leap at my father’s
shirt sleeves as he shovels coal.
He fits blackout paper to the windows.
If enemy planes make it inland,
he says a pattern
of light could lead them
to the factories.
One day he holds my mother, rocks her
while she screams by the kitchen phone.
My cousin’s plane is down over England.
Eighteen, and he is dead.
And the kitchen two years
later but still so long ago,
on the first day we drop an atom bomb,
my father standing on the red and black
linoleum, the newspaper in his hands
as if it might help him believe
what we have done
to the world.
—from Rattle #28, Winter 2007