by Keith Moul
(to my daughter, 13)
Our family men have fought in many wars,
not as army general staff, or as navy admirals;
our men stood as grunts in the line or at sea,
in foxholes, aircraft carriers and submarines,
not to speak of to their children back at home,
nor to wives unless overburdened by silence.
Can you remember your great-grandpa Gus?
He achieved notable status in the short war.
Black Jack General Pershing sent him off
with cycle messages into Belleau Wood
for a spring offensive; into Soissons for a
summer near trenches; and Flanders when
his sharp eye for fun in war went missing.
You were 3 when Gus died. He greeted
the kids when they visited; he joined them
in their play; he hid Easter and Halloween
treats, but helped them rummage in bushes
for them. I loved Grandpa Gus for living.
If you had known him, you would too.
My dear, half-blind grandpas abandon play,
as can fathers, or even sweet girls like you.
We must divulge our terrors to loved ones,
to be cradled in their arms, held protected.
Gus died not knowing how I honored him.
You want play, leaping through its tunnels,
dancing down its height, raising its banners,
twirling your airplane to boost its full flight,
spreading with your woman’s budding, then
breaking ego into your girl’s lithesome canter.
No doubt you’ll land with purpose: your eyes
and limbs will mimic air lift into new ballets.
I think of Gus at Black Jack’s command, alive
and ferocious at living, then aging with games,
loaning me field lights to be your ground crew.