A Poem for Memorial Day Weekend

I thought that since it is Memorial Day weekend, I would post a poem for my father, who served in both World War II and Korea.  This one concerns my father after he returned home from that latter war.


My father is sleeping in that tent again,
where every night the rats still run and run
across his body, and every night
he still slaps them–hard–away from him,
never waking, never knowing
that it’s my mother’s hand, soft
against his chest, reaching
for him in the dark.

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14 Responses to A Poem for Memorial Day Weekend

  1. cousin lynn norris says:

    Ah, woe. Oh, war… and its ghastly follow-on visitations to Daddy and Uncle Norman. Did Mommy and Aunt Helen know? When we slap at deer flies and mosquitoes, groan at the mouse poop in the drawer where the crumbs of scented soap lie beside shredded silk, can any of us ever know what others know? As I look at Daddy’s tent pegs, his medals, his dog tags, the letters I kept, I realize those mildewed boots and extraordinarily heavy overcoat I put in the trash must have been freighted with a pantheon of midnight sorrows. Cousin Lynn

  2. greg poschman says:

    Karen- This poem touches the nerve…It reminded me of my mother’s story of the same thing happening with my father. In his sleep he would go back to Monte Della Spe and refight the epic battles of the 10th Mountain Division. Her caress would trigger cries, or even blows from the heat of battle.

  3. Alan kelly-hamm says:

    Karen, I believe you have summed up war with your eight perfect lines. Thanks

  4. indypubnews says:

    Thanks for your comments. I don’t think anyone who hasn’t been to war can really know what it’s like, but we can all see–to a certain extent–the effects it has on them.

  5. brian miller says:

    this is stilling…still feeling the rats even though it is her hands…there are some things i imagine soldiers never forget you know…thankful you father was willing…

  6. Mary Hirsch says:

    Karen, Ruth Frey sent me your Brian Turner poem and then I came to your Web Site. Korea or Irag – war is hell-on-earth. Thank you for sharing. Ruth has sent me your poems often but I never realized you had your own Blog. Unfortunately, at Peter’s party, I missed meeting you and Tom, but I look forward to that as I return to Aspen to live. I also commemorated Memorial Day but with a tribute to the Storm King 14. I would like to share that with you. Mary Hirsch http://www.lightsonbrightnobrakes.com/storm-king-mtn-memorial-trail-a-dora-the-explorer-moment/

  7. zongrik says:

    to feel each other, to reach each other through the darkness is the ultimate devotion

    four memorial day senryu

  8. Short and sweet. A beautiful construction in the way the story of the experience is told. You honor our servicemen and women with this fine piece.

  9. Victoria says:

    Not sure if you read my poem about my dad who didn’t come home, but today I was speaking with my mom, now 91 years old, and we agreed that those who did come home often had a worse time. The rest of my dad’s crew (B-24, he was the pilot) parachuted and were POW. Mom said many of them with whome she came in contact had breakdowns and back in WWII PTSD wasn’t really recognized or treated. So my thoughts are with your dad and those, like him, who returned home and had to live with those memories thoughout their lives. As well as our fallen.

  10. gardenlilie says:

    You rocked this one, touching, story like. Loved it, absolutely loved it. Thanks:))!!

  11. This is powerful! So deep, and yet so simple and true. Excellent!

  12. TinoTino says:

    I lived with an old Polish POW who escaped to the UK and joined up to fight again. He would nod off in his chair sometimes and you could tell he troubled dreams, they were etched on his face. So similar to what you describe so eloquently here.

  13. Jerry says:

    Great poem! I really feel for any veteran that comes back from war! Most of them have Post Tramautic Stress Disorder and have nightmares. I hope and pray your father is at peace with everything and that he can let go of the horrors of war so he can life to the fullest! 🙂

  14. Starting in the tent but actually being in bed with your mom… how hard that must have been. No one seems to understand that PTSD used to be called “Shell Shock” and was reserved only for those who were so traumatized they often went to institutions. This is a very real and vivid portrayal of PTSD, and I’m so sorry it happened to your dad, Karen. I’m glad you stopped by my blog. Peace, Amy

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