a three-masted schooner tattoo on his bare chest
my father tosses us each
high into the air and we squeal with delight
make it sail for us.
he rubs his ocean belly and his ship rolls swoons
dips for us and we
dont know he is fading like the lines of the ink
geisha with parasol seducing
on his right arm or blue-red butterfly on his left calf
that doesn’t fly like he no longer
can and sailor you never told us how you raced
behind marines on strange pacific beaches
tagging mates to live and fleeing their dying
screams: at sixteen summers young
nebraska boy belongs in fields of wheat or corn
or a soda shop on main street.
their bone splinters and flesh shreds mingling with sand
still cry in his ears save me brother
help me mother oh god please shoot me bob don’t
leave me leave me. leave me.
tides lapping at the shores of his memory will wash
his secret tattoos.
for my father, a Navy corpsman who served
in two wars.
Copyright © Robert Boyd | Year Posted 2020
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