by Bill Tremblay


by Bill Tremblay


Sometimes they’re disguised

as Greek priests in beards at weddings

or auto mechanics who wink

as they daub motor oil on our noses.

Sometimes they wield axes

striking blazes off mountain spruces

making a trail to follow.

We remember their body odors

from those years sharing the same bed

in a small apartment.

Our defenders, the slayers of snakes,

our summertime employers,

a lantern in the brooding gloom

of northwest forest nights.


Their skin is no longer golden brown

from jogs through boot camp swamps.

They shine with hope their luck will

hold out and they’ll get a job

doing what they are good at

involving numbers.

Home on furlough they stand

in skivvies ironing their dress pants

with Sharpshooter medals,

packs of Luckies bulging like gravestones

in their shirt pockets.

We ask them why they must go to war.

If your country calls, you go, they say.

They brush off our question

about when we can get into the action.

They ruffle our hair and tell us,

We fight so you don’t have to.

They pull on their dress pants

and float out like bronzed gods

to a starlit dancefloor,

their hearts brim with great

unaccomplished deeds.

They come home to women with perfect

tans laughing like wedding bells.


We see them in the dream rain

trying to get unstuck from a sandpit

with nothing but hands to dig.

Sometimes they sit in white rooms

waiting for radiation watching trees turn yellow

in the steamy windows of gathering thought

around the oval portrait of our father

in his sailor suit

after being torpedoed by a U-boat

off the coast of Wales in WW I.

What was he reaching for

all those years at the race track?

His life-preserver was a brass ring.


We are birds in the same tree.

The oldest launches into the air.

One by one all of us follow.

Our flights are as high as we can imagine.