“Photograph of My Father, Home from the War” by John Riley


“Pink Vehicle” by Jean Banas, acrylic on canvas.

My father rode in a tank through France, or sometimes in a jeep. The tank was a M24 with 75 mm guns. The jeep was a Willys. He took a round in early forty-five and came home with a limp. Here he’s standing straight, hands on his hips, wearing a black string tie and his something-to-tell-you smile. His face tilts down an inch too far and his lips look about to explode. My mother took the shot. I watched him sleep at night. He never had much to say. Twice a year he left home and days later called from a jail and my mother made calls and begged for money until she could send a wire. At the mill she had to cover her hair with a scarf. He had a girlfriend in Portsmouth with her own children. We all knew better than to care. He grew stout and his limp grew worse until he was trapped in a recliner. My mother brought him soup and adjusted his pillow and answered his questions the best she could. He died one day while I was at school and she got a new job and bought new dresses and shoes. At night before going to bed I loved to watch her brush her hair.

 

 

John Riley lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he works in educational publishing. His poetry and fiction have appeared in Metazen, Connotation Press, Smokelong Quarterly, Blue Five Notebook, Willows Wept Review, The Dead Mule, and many other places online and in print.

 

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