When my father came home from the war
two years after I was born
I couldn’t match his voice with his picture
and cried each time he came near.
Learning to talk, I called him “Doug,”
the way my mother did,
this strange man always trying to hold me—
how could he be my dad?
My father was there, right there in black and white
over my bed every morning
where I could see him with his uniform on,
boarding a train, waving good-by and smiling,
not that deep voice down the hall,
not those footsteps outside my door.
No, my dad’s a soldier who’ll be home soon,
so watch out you, whoever you are.
Then Doug went away like him,
leaving for work before dawn,
the knocker on the front door always tapping
as he closed it behind him in the dark,
the big brass knocker that brought me running
to peer through the mail slot
for him who never knocked, who never came,
only Doug, home late
each night from work, this man Doug
marching up the stairs, the hall light
fierce behind him in my doorway,
a blanket in his hand.
Editor’s Note: The spare narrative style and dramatic ending of this poem clearly illustrate the disconnect that comes from families that must endure separation.