|Phil Wagner at Ben Lomond Art Center|
HISTORY STUDIES 1952
On Sunday, the A-bomb doesn't fall
but rain does, drops the shape of grapes
that burst themselves on the city.
On the kitchen wall,
a photo of uncle Jim in uniform
waving from a pontoon bridge
over the Kumho River
on his way to shoot Koreans.
On Monday, I go into the third grade to open
page one of the Catechism, "Who is God?"
then the picture book about how to hide
when the A-bomb falls
and how God and President Truman
would save our town and
me, under my desk repeating "Our Father,
whoartinheaven . . ."
until I die or until
President Truman sounds the all-clear siren
so I can walk home
and study page two of the Catechism.
On the way home I wade the edge
of the creek that rages
near the school grounds
that this same water can find its way
into a grape, then a tear
and, after I push a large stone into the stream,
can so easily leap out of its trench
to wash away a playground.
How fragile history must be
when a single well-timed and placed stone
can kill a giant or re-route a river.
Tuesday, and no bombs blast in spite of our sins
but more rain arrives and a photo of
"Uncle Jim holding his ground." Dad explains,
"Wave after wave of Koreans attack him
and his machine gun."
I go to school anyway.
"God loves me," I sing,
as my friend Zimmer leads the charge, splashing
into the re-routed river
that washes away layer after layer
of what remains of the school grounds.
"How much ground was lost?"
Father McLaughlin's eyes screw shut,
". . . one maybe two years of instruction."
he tells Sister Gerard, "The devil just got loose."
Zimmer's mom goes into the principal's office
and comes out holding Zimmer by the hand.
He waves good-bye
and I'll never see my friend again--
nor Uncle Jim.
On Thursday more rain.
We turn to page three of the Catechism.