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Poems We Say To Ourselves,1947

Men lean from windows to watch the parade,
flags blow from an army jeep, jittery trucks
loaded with straw and a cock-tootle of pets,
girls perched on floats wave like passengers
at a ship rail, boys my size will be marines
in three years, frozen in the Korean War.

Football weather, half the school turned out
in bobby socks and rolled up cuffs,
the VFW men, motorcycle police, lacquered
medallions for the foot-racers, ribbons
braided into horse tails, gloved fighters
sparring on a flatbed, mayor’s factotum,
trombones the color of new butter, Negro
clarinets with clean, perfect keys, blond
saxophones on lariats, red uniforms
led north by a silver baton in flawless spin,
cold air on the marchers like a kettle drum.

I stand beside my father, his coal tar hair,
the Santa-Fe work gloves in a hip pocket,
chiming railroad watch in his bib overalls.

Silently we watch the parade move on,
his hand slips mine, he glides away.
the afternoon grows old, years turn yellow,
a streetlight up ahead burns into the dark.

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