My Father on His Shield

Walt McDonald

 
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.

Poems by This Author

Gardens of Sand and Cactus by Walt McDonald
My wife takes salt for starters, and rusted strands
Jogging with Oscar by Walt McDonald
When I take my dachshund jogging, boys and widows gawk
The Waltz We Were Born For by Walt McDonald
I never knew them all, just hummed


Further Reading

Dead Father Poems
Cruel Cogito
by Ken Chen
Do not go gentle into that good night
by Dylan Thomas
Grief Calls Us to the Things of This World
by Sherman Alexie
Lay Back the Darkness
by Edward Hirsch
Little Father
by Li-Young Lee
Mortality
by William Knox
My Father
by Scott Hightower
My Father's Hat
by Mark Irwin
Parents
by William Meredith
Renewal [Excerpt]
by Chris Abani
Separation is the necessary condition for light.
by Brian Teare
The Figure
by Joseph Fasano
The Gift
by Li-Young Lee
Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden
To Her Father with Some Verses
by Anne Bradstreet
Whose Mouth Do I Speak With
by Suzanne Rancourt
Working Late
by Louis Simpson
Yesterday
by W. S. Merwin
Poems About Fathers
'The child is father to the man.'
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
The Last 4 Things [That hard thread]
by Kate Greenstreet
A Boy and His Dad
by Edgar Guest
A Situation for Mrs. Biswas
by Prageeta Sharma
A Story
by Li-Young Lee
A Story
by Philip Levine
American Primitive
by William Jay Smith
Another Country
by Ryan Teitman
Auld Lang Syne
by Jennifer L. Knox
Blood
by Naomi Shihab Nye
Confessions: My Father, Hummingbirds, and Frantz Fanon
by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Daddy
by Sylvia Plath
Descriptions of Heaven and Hell
by Mark Jarman
Do not go gentle into that good night
by Dylan Thomas
Father
by Edgar Guest
Father Outside
by Nick Flynn
Father's Day Cards
from The Princess [Sweet and low, sweet and low]
by Lord Alfred Tennyson
Grief Calls Us to the Things of This World
by Sherman Alexie
Her Father
by Thomas Hardy
How to Be a Lawyer
by Jordan Davis
Inventing Father In Las Vegas
by Lynn Emanuel
Lay Back the Darkness
by Edward Hirsch
Like Him
by Aaron Smith
Man of the Year
by Robin Becker
Meeting with My Father in the Orchard
by Homero Aridjis
My Father
by Scott Hightower
my father moved through dooms of love
by E. E. Cummings
My Father Remembers Blue Zebras
by Judy Halebsky
My Father's Hat
by Mark Irwin
My Father's Leaving
by Ira Sadoff
My Papa's Waltz
by Theodore Roethke
Only a Dad
by Edgar Guest
Parents
by William Meredith
Passing
by Carl Phillips
Poems about Fathers
Renewal [Excerpt]
by Chris Abani
Separation is the necessary condition for light.
by Brian Teare
Shaving Your Father's Face
by Michael Dickman
Tended Strength: Gifts of Poetry for Fathers
The Ferryer
by Sharon Olds
The Idea of Ancestry
by Etheridge Knight
The Idiot
by Charles Reznikoff
The Portrait
by Stanley Kunitz
The Trouble Ball [excerpt]
by Martín Espada
Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden
To Her Father with Some Verses
by Anne Bradstreet
Toad
by Diane Seuss
Whose Mouth Do I Speak With
by Suzanne Rancourt
With Kit, Age 7, at the Beach
by William Stafford
Working Late
by Louis Simpson
Yesterday
by W. S. Merwin
Poems About War
Henry V, Act III, Scene I [One more unto the breach, dear friends]
by William Shakespeare
The Iliad, Book I, Lines 1-15
by Homer
War Music [Down on your knees, Achilles]
by Christopher Logue
A Wedding at Cana, Lebanon, 2007
by Tom Sleigh
April 27, 1937
by Timothy Steele
At Bay
by Carl Phillips
Bagram, Afghanistan, 2002
by Marvin Bell
Before the Deployment
by Jehanne Dubrow
Death Fugue
by Paul Celan
Dulce et Decorum Est
by Wilfred Owen
Eighth Air Force
by Randall Jarrell
For the Fallen
by Laurence Binyon
For the Union Dead
by Robert Lowell
Forms of Range and Loathing
by Ruth Ellen Kocher
Grass
by Carl Sandburg
I Have a Rendezvous with Death
by Alan Seeger
I Hear an Army
by James Joyce
i sing of Olaf glad and big
by E. E. Cummings
Memorial Day for the War Dead
by Yehuda Amichai
Mosul
by David Hernandez
Peace
by Henry Vaughan
Peace
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Phantom Noise
by Brian Turner
Poems about War
Romance
by Charles Reznikoff
Ships That Pass in the Night
by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Spoken From the Hedgerows
by Jorie Graham
The Battle Hymn of the Republic
by Julia Ward Howe
The Coming of War: Actæon
by Ezra Pound
The Czar's Last Christmas Letter: A Barn in the Urals
by Norman Dubie
The Fall of Rome
by W. H. Auden
The Long Deployment
by Jehanne Dubrow
The Mask of Anarchy [Excerpt]
by Percy Bysshe Shelley
The War After the War
by Debora Greger
The War Works Hard
by Dunya Mikhail
The Wound-Dresser
by Walt Whitman
Untitled [1950 June 27]
by Don Mee Choi
Veterans of Foreign Wars
by Edward Hirsch
War and Hell, XVI [I am a great inventor]
by Ernest Crosby
War Is Kind [excerpt]
by Stephen Crane
War Rug
by Henri Cole
Web Prayer for Milosz
by David Wojahn