Poem: 'Two Photos, 1944' | Poetry | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Arts + Life » Poetry

Poem: 'Two Photos, 1944'

By

Published November 10, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.


Above: Capt. Bill Drislane, the poet's father - COURTESY OF BILL DRISLANE
  • Courtesy of Bill Drislane
  • Above: Capt. Bill Drislane, the poet's father

A photo slipped from this book of poems

I opened on my lap —

my father looking out at me

from beneath his airman's hat,

standing by a jeep in India

when the war was at their backs.


My mother landed with a Red Cross crew

and this Pocket Book of Verse

you can see she'd signed the title leaf —

and always at her arts,

with her camera in Chakulia's light

she caught this young man's pose.


Necktie tucked into his shirt

dressed in khaki slacks,

he'd take her driving around the airfields

and out to the gin-drink shack,

their spells from the bomb group's bugle calls

while the war was at their backs.


I keep another framed on my bureau,

two pilots at their ease

on liberty from a Kansas base

waiting orders to fly planes East.

"Kids," my father would often say,

"Old men at twenty-three."


One went down crossing the Hump,

the other into Bengal Bay,

and my father kept their photo close

in his wallet all his days.

It came to me when he was gone.

The war had always stayed.


I never till now saw these photos hold

the depth of my father's grief,

his pals both lost the month before,

my mother his relief.

You can see it in his muted smile

in the photo by the jeep.


My mother leafed through memories

in the pages of these poems,

and among them slipped this photo

to let the poets know

that war is always at the backs

of the ones who make it home.

Left: Maj. Alex Zamry and Capt. Eddie Glass, friends of the poet's father - COURTESY OF BILL DRISLANE
  • Courtesy of Bill Drislane
  • Left: Maj. Alex Zamry and Capt. Eddie Glass, friends of the poet's father
Below: Signature of Ellen Westphal, the poet's mother - COURTESY OF BILL DRISLANE
  • Courtesy of Bill Drislane
  • Below: Signature of Ellen Westphal, the poet's mother