The first dream was long and complicated.
It was about World War 2 in the Pacific,
Where my Uncle Bill sailed and fought, nineteen years old.
Preparing to invade the Japanese mainland,
The top naval brass decided to replace
All of the giant aircraft carriers Americans
Had built with so much industry and cost
But also with such pride and sacrifice
With a whole new fleet of smaller, more
Agile carriers, so that when, inevitably,
The kamikazes struck them,
Fewer brave child-sailors would swirl down
Amid the chaos of blood and burning.
And no one doubted this huge new force
Could be forged and hammered and deployed
To the far side of the Earth in months
Because America would do it,
And that’s the kind of magic we were capable of.
The second dream was hardly a dream at all—
An image: a short, white-haired woman,
Still in good shape—look at the muscles in those legs
That extend from her red summer shorts
All the way down to her running shoes—
Marches down her driveway to retrieve a plastic bag
That someone dropped to blow around the neighborhood.
She bends down, picks it up, and turns,
But wobbles as she does so. You
Can take yoga classes, sweat, and run, do
Everything in your power to preserve
The remnant of that body your parents idolized
As they cooed and clucked like doves above you
In your bassinet, but you are only
Their immortality, not your own.
She is one of that generation the heroes fought
And died for, inheritors of prim suburban homes
Purchased by the drowned, and now
Even those inheritors, in spite of all their striving,
Grow wobbly and gray,
And the magic of America has come down
To a tattered grocery bag that one windy day
Hitched a ride from a passing breeze
And quietly flew away.
Copyright 2022 John Lawson.
John Lawson is a Professor of English at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.