Army surgeons fixed a metal plate
across the gap blown in Dad’s skull.
2 decades later he died, his body
cremated. Weeks after his memorial–
the red-hot steel bar of rage Dad
and I shoved between us
not mentioned–my younger brother
and I visit Mom. After breakfast,
she passed me a box the size
of my fist. I lifted out a thin oblong
of gray, blotchy, pitted metal
the length and width
of my first two fingers,

which lay cool in my palm.
   . .

Old, he sits patient
for a holiday dinner in his house,
asks about my work,
frowns at my answer, then beams when
my two brothers arrive. Yet leaving,  
I kiss the forehead over eyes I once
shrieked at, he yelling at mine, Mom
rushing in to say David, your heart!
Preventing a killer last heart attack
and lifelong guilt I’d murdered him.
   . . .

But I no longer have to visit  
Dad’s house, where damned
not to anticipate what
anyone there might not say,
or know, they needed,

yet never him, paralyzed
by the sniper’s headshot.
Months pass I don’t
think of him except
Mom and Dad’s image
on a shelf in a hallway 
stabs me. Or when
I ask my wife
three times 

in a morning
What’s wrong?
Or my son
Everything alright?
Or I forget to ask them
so think
I should be shot.
   . . . .

What drove him to run
through a gap blown
in the farmer’s rock wall
bullets splashed? 
Soldiers’ bond? Justice? If glory,
he didn’t want to know.
His marred speech
and frozen right arm
and leg. Couldn’t I know
I left college and quit writing

to save him, a journalist
before the war, from envy
and despair? Shames me, thousands
of streets and alleys I walked,
a million instant cruel thoughts  
I tried to stop, not knowing
all this doing and thinking
distracted from rage at Dad
able to say You can do anything—

what’s wrong with you?




George Shelton



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2 Responses to Stab

    1. Remarkable, and strong, moving poem. Vivid and haunting.

      Comment by John Levy on 2 September, 2022 at 5:52 pm
    2. A very haunting poem…one I will carry because of its pain and beauty

      Comment by Barbara Allen on 6 April, 2023 at 12:15 am

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