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we regarded my father
the same way we did God:
an awesome, omnipotent being who somehow
knew our most secret thoughts and worst crimes.
he was an ex-Marine, hard-eyed and bristle-cut,
tall and inaccessible
as the Washington Monument.
was classic New England stock,
stationed in Newport back when the Catholic university
was all-girls,
and the city was known more for its shores than its casino.
that was where he met my mother,
shining like toothpaste smiles in his dress-whites.
she, barelegged in running shorts and Adidas without socks,
was such a contrast to the overdressed upper crust milling outside the front door
of the Jai Alai by the highway
that he had to stop and look at her again.
she was eighteen to his twenty-three,
a freshman, barely escaping her mother's grasp.
her name was Diane. he commented that
when paired with his name they became the title couple
of a Mellencamp song.

they fall in love before
Martin, John, and Robert are shot,
before my father is called to duty and leaves her
to teach my brother to walk.
they fall in love before
my father is among those
to abandon civilians in Saigon, staring straight ahead
as his helicopter lifts
and retreats.
it is only a rehearsal for his future,
for the wickedness to come.

31 January 2003