combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 03 Number 03 Summer ©Jul 2005

The Distance of Brothers

      My father, feeling nostalgic,
      drives through the old neighborhood,
      and after visiting his mother's house,
      or the vacant lot,
      since the house had been razed years ago,
      walks down the street
      to the house where his brother lived
      at the time of his death.

      He is standing at the gate,
      thinking back over the years,
      his childhood,
      though his brother was so much older,
      nearly an adult by the time he was born;
      therefore there are no memories
      of wrestling after school
      or riding bikes down Mulberry Hill.
      When my father was six,
      his brother was fighting in World War II.
      Upon his return, he was more distant than ever,
      and refused to talk about his experiences.

      As my father stands at the gate,
      a man of forty exits the house
      and walks to a gray Chevy.
      They see each other and are incredulous.
      At the gate is the man's father,
      dead fifteen years,
      and with hand poised on the car door
      is my father's brother,
      circa 1960, with thick black hair,
      though not in the old pompadour.

      They introduce themselves
      and it is his brother's youngest son,
      now living in the old house.
      They reminisce for a few minutes
      with the awkwardness of new acquaintances.
      "He seemed genuinely pleased to see me,"
      my father will later tell me.
      His nephew shows him the old house,
      and in a brief lull in the conversation,
      really no more than several minutes,
      they look at the backyard, how the grass
      is still thick but the old fence is gone.
      The nephew enters the house and returns
      moments later with his brother's Army uniform,
      which my father caresses in his hands,
      brushing off an invisible speck of dust.

      About that time there is nothing left to say,
      or else the nephew needs to get somewhere,
      because he keeps trying
      not to glance at his watch.
      So my father says it's time to go,
      at which time the nephew grows more cordial,
      patting my father on the back
      and telling him to stop by any time,
      though he often works late,
      sometimes even on weekends.
      "Better call first," he says.
      They part with a handshake
      and a suggestion to keep in touch.

      In the car on the way home,
      the presence of his brother
      is so overwhelming,
      my father nearly weeps.

by Thomas D. Reynolds
... who is a teacher at Johnson County Community College, combining folklore and history in his poetry, which has been published in a variety of journals, including New Delta Review, Alabama Literary Review, Aethlon - The Journal of Sport Literature, American Western Magazine, Strange Horizons, Midwest Poetry Review, Poetry Midwest, and The MacGuffin, as well as previously appearing in this magazine. Members of his family served honorably in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.

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