blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2009  Vol. 9. No. 2






Military Portrait of My Father
Kodak, 1944

     —after Rilke

My eyes don’t dream, though surely my brow feels
Something remote. Shut lips.
                                               Can you penetrate

This reticence, this sorrow that admits no smile,
Only shadow. On my lap the medic’s helmet,

Scarred & pitted, white oval for the scarlet cross,
Washed-out colors, fingers toying with the strap.

The wrists, which won’t stay folded for the pose,
Are milk-white blurs, as if only my hands could grasp

The details of such inwardness. This time, no caption,
And the ringless hands will open and clench.

Hands & eyes averted, the image beckons
Then pushes you away.
                                       It haunts your desk.

I stare into the glass, your breath against his face
Until our images dissolve—shadow into light, son into father.

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