This poem is set at a July 4th picnic during my childhood. My father and uncles were veterans and I wonder what they felt and what memories the holiday revived.
When It Was Dark Enough
My father seldom talked about the war, as if nothing had happened, but he talked in his sleep. My mother never understood what he said. Some attacks were malaria and she fetched his quinine tablets.
He sat up sweating, clutching her arm, nightmare unspoken. Water in her hands cooled his sudden temper even in daylight. When he first came home, his darkness scared his mother. He wanted to start a new religion, all false.
He brought back few souvenirs. Wooden shoes for his sisters and an Arab knife—a gift from North Africa, handle sun-bleached wood wrapped with coat hanger wire, steel blade sharpened by hand and bent in waves from opening K-ration cans. He gave away
the chocolate bars and most cigarettes. He told us he picked bugs out of his mess kit until he decided they tasted pretty good. Then he caught more and dropped them in. We knew the war by his jokes. He was the only son; his sisters all married veterans. They sat in a circle
at our family picnics, hands wrapped around necks of brown beer bottles, red coals of cigarettes rising in gesture and sinking to mouth and armrest, quietly talking over the drone of mosquitoes after their wives sought the safety of the porch.
We crept closer to hear what they said, but they pulled their silence tighter around them like an oily tarp on night watch, darkness descending until they finally said it was dark enough to light the firecrackers they brought. They held their ears and smiled.
Our father repaired typewriters, a lost art. Here is a poem recalling his shop in the basement where he let me help him when I was young.
My Father’s Tools
Leaning over typewriter frame, hands ink dark with calluses, my father reaches around type bars and brackets, levers of tempered steel, hooking a spring, placing the smallest screw with magnetized driver. He adjusts to touch, aligning letters until they flow in perfect lines, finger strike to paper.
Broken machines wait on bench with glass jars of spare parts, needle-nosed pliers worn smooth, small torch for soldering type, hooks, benders, crimpers, oil can with long nozzle, cleaning tub with black solvent.
He lets me scrub the type and pivots, bathe them in oil, wipe them dry until they shine like reborn souls. Now the typewriters are gone but I keep his tools, fixing any problem. I show my son how to grasp each one, correct angle, knowing the tool by its function. He adds his layer of fingerprints, imagining machines he will build.
Sharing some recent research on award opportunities for published books. If you published a book in the past year, this might be helpful. Most do not allow self-published books, and some require your publisher to nominate. In any case, be sure to check the eligibility requirements because they vary according to location, publication dates, and submission details.
When I started my search, I found most awards request manuscripts, and the award is publication, which is wonderful. But what if your book is already published? My list is not exhaustive, of course, and I tended to focus on awards that consider books from small presses.
Based on a true story, the poem tells how we learned there was another Terry Tierney, a suspected felon, living in Lincoln, Nebraska when we moved there. My arrival aroused several official computers. The police and the social services department thought I lied about my quiet life as a graduate student supported by my tolerant, librarian wife.
Ironically, when I wasn’t distracted by writing poetry in Lincoln, I was working on my dissertation about William Makepeace Thackeray and his various protagonists as doubles of himself. Those doubles have much less contrast with one another than me and my apparent double.
The cover of The Poet’s Garage depicts the poem, complete with pools of grease where lines have spilled, the cardboard box of active verbs, and the files of proper nouns. As in the poem, the poet has eluded arrest, so far.