War Time

By Bob Meszaros

It is Christmas.

The living room is filled with relatives

and light: logs in the fireplace, electric

candles in the windows and on the tree.

All real and artificial flames point

up and give off light.


My uncle plays the piano:

his sisters sing. His father sits hunched

before the fire, drumming with his fingers

on the armrest of his chair.


My father is in the Pacific

building bridges. My mother is in the kitchen

by the phone. I sit curled behind a chair back

in the corner, listening to my uncle play

the piano, to his father’s fingers drumming,

drumming, drumming on the wood.


Time stops while I listen;

while the radiators hiss;

before the Christmas fire collapses;

before anyone is dead.

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