Our Son and the Airborne Rangers
    Walt McDonald
Uncle Sam in a flag top-hat looked out.
Get a gun, be a man. Our son, seventeen,
studied that slick poster logic. Makes sense,

he said, and swaggered inside.
Now twenty years have passed, our son
older than recruiters who sized him up

while he signed. They had to know
he wasn't old enough, baby fuzz on his face,
his hair today already gray,

Clark Gable in a sergeant's jumpsuit.
After he comes back from overseas,
after who knows how many more night jumps,

he'll take it off, pack medals
and souvenirs away, won't tell how many men
he killed, how many battles he survived.

I think about the nights his mother rocked him
back to sleep, rubbing his baby legs,
his growing pains, singing in his ear, There, there.

Along Fall River Road

    Walt McDonald
Fall River's a creek with cutthroat trout,
blackberries and sumac along the bank.
There's a dipper, bobbing, ducking down
and under the stream for grubs.
Here's where our daughter's hook snagged

decades ago. I cut the line, tied
another dry fly and watched her flip,
flip it the way a hatch would hover,
before the splash and tug of fish
for the skillet, her own fillet.

Backpacking two years before, we held her
back from a river raging so swift
we shouted and made signs. All night,
we marveled our daughter could sleep
in the tent under mountain thunder and rain.

Now, at 65, we're back, where fishing is only
catch and release from here to the dam,
the stream so shallow we step across on rocks.
We stare as if to ask What happened?
Our daughter's a mother, now, older than us

the month when we taught her secrets
of wrist and flip, wide eyes of wonder
before her first trout struck.
Signs in the forest caution Watch for bears
and warn No fires today, no fires.

Walt McDonald is Texas State Poet Laureate for 2001. He is Paul Whitfield Horn Professor of English and Poet in Residence, Texas Tech University. Before joining the faculty at Texas Tech he served as a Pilot, U.S. Air Force and taught at the Air Force Academy. His eighteen books include "All Occasions" (University of Notre Dame Press, 2000), "Blessings the Body Gave" (Ohio State University Press, 1998), Counting Survivors (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995), Night Landings (Harper & Row, 1989), "After the Noise of Saigon" (University of Massachusetts Press, 1988), "The Flying Dutchman" (Ohio State University Press, 1987) and others.

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