I live with my wife, Ellen, in Bellport, near the Great South Bay, on the extreme south Shore of Long Island. The two poems included in this issue first appeared together in Country of Memory (Uccelli Press, 2004) and were subsequently included in my Selected Poems, In the Path of Lightning (Time Being Books, 2012). More poems, as well as information about me and my work, can be found at http://www.charlesfishman.com/.
The Pearl Harbor Kid
Aldo Rossi, 1953
On that day I snapped his photo, he could recall
the way — 12 years earlier — lamps in the delivery room
at the base hospital quivered, like bells being rung,
how they swung in the un-breeze rushing in
from the Pacific, and how they sent out blue tides
of sparks. The shock of his arrival left no physical scar,
but you had to watch out for that wryly challenging smile,
that cockiness no joke or jibe could deflate, the light
in those dark Italian eyes. See, here he is again
on our nearly vacant street, striking that trademark
pose, the Babe Ruth bat held smartly on his shoulder.
Clearly, it is late winter, maybe March, for the few
recently planted trees remain leafless. Yet baseball
was surely on Aldo’s mind that day: a kind of pre-
spring fever that couldn’t be cured without playing.
Look at the cloth coat he wears, its mock-fur collar limp
and faded, the way every crease and seam flexes
under the pull of that just-frozen swing. He’s wearing
good brown shoes that are going to get murdered
on macadam. Notice how neatly the laces are tied,
how securely he stands and waits: he has all day
for the ball to reach him. Perhaps Aldo has just
come home from church or a visit to his grandmother —
yes, maybe that’s it: this must be a late March Sunday,
not yet time for supper: he wears his best pair of jeans,
the bottoms “rolled” in a six-inch fold that exposes
the washed-blue underhue of denim. Leaning forward
in the batter’s box of the ’50s, Aldo seems to tower
over the houses, over the luckless lawns, over
the compass-true sidewalks . . . yet who is this boy
but a phantom out of childhood, a tossed ball
on opening day somehow stilled in flight?
in memory of Darrell “Dean” Walton
He was a good-looking man,
and he was easy to be with:
on a hike, on a bike trail,
on a deep-sea journey
into black fathoms.
When he smiled, he smiled
from the bottom of his life
where northwest rivers flashed
in the rain of childhood.
He grew up clean, clear-headed,
strong in the presence of brothers,
and did not carry with him a sack
of shattered dreams or broken vessels
that could no longer hold sparks
or parchments of some dark tribal history.
The sun, when it was shining, pooled
at his feet, and he could wisecrack
with the best of them: the good ol’ boys
he’d meet in the Air Force radio shack
in Clear, Alaska (so cold in that place
that piss would freeze) or the aircraft
warriors at Boeing Everett, in the Lower 48,
who pledged their sacred honor — and their
overtime — to the nation’s need for flight,
to fire-power without limit, and to the bottom line.
He was a born-again believer in Bible real estate
and a picture postcard patriot of the American Way.
Sister, this is the man who would father your children
and stand at your side in the changeable weather
of decades, who would grieve with you gone.
For him, love was an active verb, family and country —
©2015 Charles Fishman