by William L. Alton



My father lost his hair in the Pacific:

malaria. He fought the Japanese,

the Koreans and Chinese, the VC and NVA.

My father was a hero who came home

one day, retired and decorated. He came home

with his crooked teeth and his fists.

He drank vodka in the morning

and bourbon at night. He learned to sell

himself to the job market, working his way

from representative to manager, but he never learned

to make his way from stranger to father.

I never trusted him. I never knew how to love him.

I sometimes wonder what he thinks of me,

a failure in everything I’ve touched: my work,

my wife, my kids. I’ve stopped trying to make him

understand. He calls me a malingerer. I say

it’s madness and incompetence. I am not

my father, the hero who couldn’t love his kids.

I’m the scarecrow watching the birds eat the corn.