Norman, Oklahoma, 1946
by Jack H. Simons
Mom and Dad died — buried ten weeks apart
On equally cold, wet, blustery days.
And I fell into despair — as though I
Had never gone to war, had never read
The offices at the graveside, had not aged.
As I mourned my way to a darker world.
I remembered their joy, their hope, seeing
Their glow the night we walked from our home on
McNamee Street to the Memorial Union
To hear the midnight chimes. I was a small
Child. I saw black and white, dark and light
Under a bright moon that turned the sidewalk
Into a shining path.
I had been born under the sign of war,
And though I knew nothing,
War was all I knew —
I slept under wool, war-surplus blankets.
I wore a sheepskin pilot’s helmet
With hooks, and snaps, and ear holes.
My parents had lived through the war as
An interval between youth and the
Promise — and now they had the down payment:
A house, two children, the GI Bill, my Dad’s
Hope to be an engineer, my Mom’s desire
To teach literature — both romantics,
Either could have suggested the chimes
At midnight. They walked arm-in-arm, and my
Dad carried Fred. The silent streets led at
Last to the Union tower. Warm August air
Washed us, and I asked: “How long?”
“Not long now,” Father said.
My parents held hands as the hour chimed.
They kissed, and I heard the pleasant
Murmur of their talk. We turned for home. I
Complained I couldn’t keep up.
The word came back: “Keep up.”
They laughed and talked the rest of
The way home, and once there I went to bed.
I have since dreamed of the trek. In the dream
We hear the chimes strike midnight, and turn for
Home. I follow, but I cannot keep up.
A cloud covers the moon. I fall behind.
I call out. No one answers.