My Father on His Shield
Shiny as wax, the cracked veneer Scotch-taped and brittle. I can't bring my father back. Legs crossed, he sits there brash with a private's stripe, a world away from the war they would ship him to within days. Cannons flank his face and banners above him like the flag my mother kept on the mantel, folded tight, white stars sharp-pointed on a field of blue. I remember his fists, the iron he pounded, five-pound hammer ringing steel, the frame he made for a sled that winter before the war. I remember the rope in his fist around my chest, his other fist shoving the snow, and downhill we dived, his boots by my boots on the tongue, pines whishing by, ice in my eyes, blinking and squealing. I remember the troop train, steam billowing like a smoke screen. I remember wrecking the sled weeks later and pounding to beat the iron flat, but it stayed there bent and stacked in the barn by the anvil, and I can't bring him back.
From Blessings the Body Gave, published by Ohio State University Press. Copyright © 1998 by Walt McDonald. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Walt McDonald has received six awards from the Texas Institute of Letters, including the Lon Tinkle Memorial Award for Excellence Sustained Throughout a Career, and four Western Heritage Awards from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. He served served as Texas Poet Laureate in 2001.
Date Published: 1998-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/my-father-his-shield