Pornpen Hantrakool














 


Kelley Jean White
 


Six True Things About Water

1.

my father was on a destroyer in the South Pacific
he remembered a great storm, the small boat
an acorn in a rocky pool
stirred by an angry child,
the men clinging
to her sides like bugs on a windshield
wiper, the roar
a locomotive in an bank vault
after my father retired he had time, he could spend
hours
in the town library with books
on World War II and naval history
he thought he had identified the storm
he read me a chapter
there is nothing to compare it to


2.

my fatherís best friend on the ship was a boy
from Milwaukee
he had never seen the ocean
he could not swim
when they crossed the equator they had a certain
initiation
they were thrown from the ship, had to make
it to a ladder
my father tried to take his friendís place
it was forbidden
the boy drowned
after my father retired he had time, he could spend
hours
Kelley White,
Six, page 2, continue same stanza

sorting through the tiny
brown edged pictures
there was the Chief Petty Officer crowned
as King Neptune
there was his friend laughing
he tried
but he could not remember that boyís name


3.

my father knew at least 100 trout streams
once he rolled his canoe over
while he dried out by the fire he counted
the trout flies
on his hat band, 47,
on his vest, 218,
in his tackle box 808
when he bailed out his little boat he counted
47 buckets
after my father retired he had time, he could spend
hours
counting,
my mother didnít want to hear the numbers,
things didnít add up
my father always wanted to run the inland
waterway
he wanted to camp along Skyline drive
hike the Appalachian trail
after my father retired he had time, he could spend
hours
planning the trips


4.

money was tight
he sold his little boat,
his little silver
travel trailer,
Kelley White,
Six, page 3, continue same stanza


gave me the tent
Iíve driven Skyline drive
it was beautiful above the Shenandoah River
It was terrifying
my father never drank anything but water,
milk
and orange juice
occasionally a beer
but never before sunset
after my father retired he had time, he could spend
hours
sitting with his fishing buddies
but he never drank hard liquor
he didnít drink coffee
never had a donut in his life
and men never talk
there is no need to speak by a waterfall


5.

my father taught himself about fish,
about rainbow trout,
brook trout,
brown, and
landlocked salmon
after my father retired he had time, he could spend
hours
researching the biology
of insect hatches,
the lateral line,
the visual system of fish
his legs gave out
he couldnít hike into the best streams
Trout Unlimited brought in an expert
from Boston
who thought he knew more
than my father


6.

my father drank
from a colored only fountain in Alabama
he stayed innocent
he never learned to curse
in the South, in 1947, he gave his seat
to a Black soldier on a bus
he did not believe in divorce
he never thought youíd leave me
after my father retired he had time, he could spend
hours
worrying about me,
worrying about my children
watching me cry for months
he raised his fist to you
he didnít believe in violence
he taught me never to hate anyone
he was seventy-three
he didnít want to live with my failure
didnít want to watch love
drift into despair

Pediatrician Kelley White has worked in inner city Philadelphia and rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA. Her recent books are TOXIC ENVIRONMENT (Boston Poet Press) and TWO BIRDS IN FLAME (Beech River Books.) She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.

 


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