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Your father died on Christmas Day.
When you heard the news
you walked out
into the snow
stepping in footprints
his boots had made
the day before,
finding a glove
he had dropped
on his way to the barn.

Too young to attend
the funeral
defying adult judgment
you sprawled in the hayloft,
chin resting on mittened hands,
watching the coffin being hoisted
from hearse to shoulders
in front of the Congregational church
next door.

The next fall
claiming you needed
male guidance
your mother sent you
away from home –
away from grandmother’s
warm homemade doughnuts and
the quiet ticking of the hall clock —
to military school.

What did you learn?
March in straight lines
Be on guard.
Sleep with one shoe under your pillow
to fend off dark midnight advances.

When you graduated in ’46 you enlisted.
Too late to fight, you
Shipped out in December
on a troop ship to Japan
to join the Army of Occupation.
At sea, loudspeakers blared
Bing Crosby crooning
“I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”