World War II

The war my father never spoke of
lived in the sixth-grade history book
I lugged home from school.
On the school bus
a flame curled inside my book.
I looked around to make sure
the other kids didn’t notice.
Nothing had changed:
all shoulder punches and guffaws
thrashing in that liminal zone
between childhood and horse laughs.
At the dinner table for five, some nights,
between family talk and laughter,
I’d sneak a studious peak at my father’s
sky-blue eyes flecked with arctic cold.
I wanted to know what lay behind them.
I wanted to know what it was like
to have been in the book I carried home.
I wondered how much of the world
would be shut out from me,
forever unknowable and strange.
And how many flames would lick up
through my own floorboards.

Mike Dillon lives in Indianola, Washington, a small town on Puget Sound northwest of Seattle. His most recent book is a chapbook, The Return, from Finishing Line Press (March 2021).

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