Deborah L. Humphreys

the year that was

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a day lost in travel
going home. barrelling down
south on parallel tracks, patriotic silver
red blue space ships careens through

some peoples' backyard, passed rows
of south philly houses squeezed together
like teeth in need of braces or huddled orphans
and memories. a record album of coventry

carols. stiff red velveteen skirt, white silk blouse
like a thin sheet of ice against your back. home
at yuletide. popcorn garlands, tinsel, the tree
with its scrawny side hidden, midnight mass before

presents tiny tears the inevitable coveting
your brother's toys. childhood was still
a recent invention, a defense against the poverty
of too much experience, too soon. your father spent

two decembers in the pacific theatre. now he tells you
the nightmares you feared were true. war is hell. he wrote
down the name of each port and the date. nothing more

an olive-green footlocker holds photos of the baby
flattop crew, 1943 boughs o'holly banquet, a dozen christmas
scenes from a life after the war. you want permission
to spread them out, separate them, put them
into some kind of order along with this
morning. it is harder than you imagine