| General Poetry
posted March 28, 2021
Casualties of War
Mother handed me fifteen dollar bills in Cairo, Illinois in 1945. Told me not to lose it. Said "Get a taxi to the Jefferson Parish Streetcar stop from the train station. Find the bus to Camp Plauche." I remember looking at the money and thinking it felt greasy, and I would need to wash my hands.
Mother gave Teddy two brown paper bags of bologna sandwiches, chips, candy bars and coca cola while she herded us onto the dingy silver train. It was all the food we would have until we arrived. The train was headed to New Orleans where our father waited in Camp Plauche. Made us sit. Turned and walked back to her lover while we watched from the window. No one waved.
Left me, at twelve years old, in charge of three younger brothers, ten, eight and six. Eighteen hours later we arrived. Billy, the baby, was staggering.
"Hold hands. Don't let go no matter what." We made a catapillary line to the Taxi Stand. The driver took eleven of the dirty dollars, handed me back the rest.
"For the bus." He folded my fingers around them and squeezed them tight.
Off the bus in front of the Camp PX. Daddy waiting, looked at me and said, "At first I thought you were your Mother." Picked up my baby brother and walked toward the barracks. We followed.
That was seventy-six years ago, Mother. You are dead. I am eighty-nine with six sons of my own. I think of you every day.
Still call out for you when I vomit, still do not understand how you could have left us that day. Only death can take me from my children.
Some things will never be resolved or understood. Her children were worth less to her than her lover. Such an action would tear me apart. Perhaps it did her, too. Unknown.
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