WWII Photo of My Father

Old and worn American flag for Memorial Day or 4th of July
in memoriam: R.G.G., New York, PFC 8, Tank Destroyer, d. 1959

My father sent my mother a photograph from boot camp—
tucked in a corner of her mirror when she put on lipstick—
it was black-and-white; on the back of it, a blue time stamp.

My father got convulsive electroshock—¾ amp by amp—
after the war—and the violence—supposed to do the trick;
that wasn’t the man in my mother’s photo at boot camp.

I’d watch her wipe the bathroom mirror when it was damp
and check out her perfumes, deciding on which one to pick;
the black-and-white serrated edged photo had a time stamp.

After visitations, she’d stare out the window beside the lamp—
after home visits—and the cops—she’d explain he was sick:
it was the war—she’d show them the photo from boot camp.

I remember one time the cops helping him on with his pants—
on the bed, war souvenirs (German helmet, flag with swastika)—
and in the corner of her mirror, the young recruit at boot camp.

An adult, I find it hard to believe in anything—except chance.
When I write about the both of them, I feel my throat get thick.
My father once sent my mother a photograph from boot camp.
It was black-and-white, and on the back was a blue time stamp.


Stephen Gibson’s collections include Frida Kahlo in Fort Lauderdale ( Able Muse book finalist, forthcoming), Self-Portrait in a Door-Length Mirror (2017 Miller Williams Prize winner, University of Arkansas), The Garden of Earthly Delights Book of Ghazals (Texas Review Press),and Rorschach Art Too (2014 Donald Justice Prize, Story Line Press).