Fathers and Sons

Granddaddy stared at war news
he couldn't choose but watch.
Two elbow stubs after World War One

pumped to make cold metal move,
lightweight aluminum with thumbs,
remote control from his mind

like the past.  He babbled and hugged us,
teasing candy canes from our collars,
behind our ears.  I know now

how he did it, but all of his tricks
seemed magic.  After Grandmother's ham
and yams, after patted tummy and sighs,

he saved the best for last,
model planes he whittled with claws,
oak blocks in a vise he sliced

and sanded smooth until we swore
those planes could fly--Hellcats,
Mustangs, battle planes

of World War II, his four sons' war.
My father and uncles returned
without harm or night sweats, I thought

when I was nine, until I flew off
to Saigon and back, and my son
left last month for boot camp.

When Our Children Believe Us

As a bride, our daughter phoned home
often with questions about God,
how to boil water, how to raise
happy babies, how to spot

bad babysitters and teachers.
Our grandson was in trouble
with the law of algebra, again.
She burned the phone lines up,

pilgrim seeking answers in Tibet,
as if we're an aging, chubby couple
calm as Buddha.  For years she begged
to know what's wrong, why hamsters

eat their young, why God
lets neighbors' children die.
She was like our child again
when she was five and we were wise.

And then the phone calls stopped,
trickle of a mountain stream
in drought--we'd stalled long enough,
humming into the phone, ohh, oh no,

ohh-my.  She calls sometimes at night
after her children sleep,
patient as we complain and sigh
about the red oak dying,

how our knees and ankles ache
after walking only two miles,
no longer able to jog, asking how long
before her family can fly home.

(c) Walt McDonald 2001
Walt McDonald

Walt's second appearance in Another Sun.  He was a U.S. Air Force pilot, taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and was Texas Poet Laureate for 2001.

Four of his books received Western Heritage Awards from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame (USA).