My mother's nursing-home roommate
sighs because her husband died
two rooms away of a stroke.
The new TV her daughter brought
lies boxed and ready under her bed.

I've absorbed the legend of his death.
With his last words he cried out
to the crew of his bomber dying
over Germany. Survivor's guilt
kept him alive until ninety
when his crew embraced him for good.

At the window the fresh May trees
dandle in aggressive south winds.
I want to walk down to the river
and forget the Second World War,
which expired before I was born
but has haunted me as surely
as that long-dead bomber crew.

My mother, half-deaf, hasn't heard
her roommate recite this story.
She watches through fading eyes
but catches only large gray movements
as I shuffle to her side-chair
and return my attention to her.

Mother's Day has always felt slack
as old underwear, but this year
we can add a bomber in flames
over Hamburg, the crew screaming
and one man parachuting through smoke
and heavy flack to a prison camp
he'd inhabit the rest of his life.

William Doreski teaches at Keene State College in New Hampshire. His most recent collection of poetry is Waiting for the Angel (2009). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowella's Shifting Colors.  His essays, poetry, and reviews have appeared in many journals, including Massachusetts Review, Notre Dame Review, The Alembic, New England Quarterly, Harvard Review, Modern Philology, Antioch Review, Natural Bridge.


Copyright 2009