After the War
They put shell casings on the tables left the cake
Lit their cigarettes and talked of flowers.
These fractured soldiers kissed their wives
Made children. Some of them
were dreamers of that long grey dream of war
Could not awake and took their heavy caliber
assault weapons like the lovers that they were
Shot presidents and families and then
wore poorly tailored business suits or
coveralls went into industry, the lawyers
doctors university professors mostly were
exempt or officers and stayed behind.
There was a very muscular
Ex-soldier angry in a wheelchair
"Grunt" it said in letters on the back.
And all the men and women who had left
Fought for their country or for fame
Or wanted action like my pilot brother
Some came back and saw the signs of peace
were everywhere but Nixon
mowed electric campuses like they
the warriors of a foreign war
had never died.
There was my father in Belgium in 1944
Blue grey with tank smoke -- like my mother's eyes
My father's buddy trapped like fish
in a burning tank, and he
Repairing Sherman tanks like U.S. soldiers
But he was not a Yank.
It was a world war, Canada with Britain
and all those others, nations of the world
First in 1939 my father from a farm
This was the highlight of his life
Forever after all the medals lined
along our family wall, he never talking
Screaming sometimes late at night
"War nerves" my mother called it.
They gave their coats to Polish women
working in the turnip fields
in thin dresses faded patched
like my mother's dress and like her eyes
Following the long glass sea
to England where they disembarked
All the soldiers from the soil
Plaid shirts exchanged for brown
Like my father's eyes
And we…oh, I
was born in Canada in 1944.