It was boring, my father begins, and
It was usually snowing. He pauses,
as if he half expects it to begin storming
right there in the living room, whipping
the wreckage of letters and pictures up
into a real winter squall. Then it all
spills out--days on the train from Michigan,
his ship rolling across the Bering Sea.
During those years, Amchitka was bombed,
and Kiska occupied, and the long days curved
like the gray walls of a Quonset hut,
like the Aleutians themselves, gradually,
into a kind of silent whiteness,
sad as a pin-up, a deck of cards,
orders typed out in triplicate.
He became numb listening to voices snap
through sleet falling inside the wireless.
Days were spaces, and conversations
became something to fill in with Well,
and the drone of Japanese fighter planes,
and snow sighing again, covering all.
On those days when he lay in his bunk
and the leaves of the book he was reading
fell open on the blanket, he let himself dream,
let himself think of bombs not falling,
of the rest of his life stretching away
like small houses on a street, each day
with four straight walls and a roof.
He dreamed letters: thin blue envelopes
addressed in a slanted hand . . . and they came.
He dreamed my mother, who wrote the letters,
dreamed her with dark hair in a flowered dress,
dreamed my brother, dreamed me.
Planes flying low over the island banked,
then climbed back into blankness.
And one rare morning when the sun was shining,
the private who stocked shelves in the PX
coaxed him out into the brightness, saying,
Let's get a picture.