you were the first child
that my father fathered
but also the first to die.
bearing the high forehead and glasses
that I would later wear,
you were the successful prototype
of the child that I would soon become,
conceived just eight months,
and two wives,
after your death.
My father had moved on,
leaving you behind eight years before
when you were only seven.
I may never know why.
The divorce papers had read
yet my father was never cruel to me.
Perhaps by then
he had seen enough of cruelty
as he and his soldiers killed, and were killed,
in the swamps of Leyte -
on the ridges of Okinawa –
eight thousand miles away
while you were turning eleven.
You were keenly interested in aviation,
but would never spread your wings. Instead,
you sank beneath the chill waters
of a muddy Nebraska creek
when a summer frolic
took your breath away.
I wonder –
did your spark then defiantly rise
and swing westward across the Rocky Mountains
before coming to rest eight months later
where I was just becoming alive
in my mother's womb?
Perhaps you grew along with me
and shared my own delight
as I assembled models of rockets and missiles
and watched two men
walk across the Moon.
Will you wait for me? Before I die
I hope to stand above your grave
and read this paltry poem to you.
Perhaps some warmth will find its way
into your long-cold bones or ashes
and soothe you as you lie there.
Perhaps, if I am quiet enough,
I will feel your subtle presence
and hear your simple voice
whispering in my ear.