Silent and fine, like the blood-red vase
perched on our living room mantel, you waved,

your white-gloved hand laboring goodbye
in surrender. By your side, Dad, in uniform,

pumped his fist in triumph. I drifted, vaguely,
into the fog, down the ramp, to my flight,

brooding my way—how would you survive
the coming year, when broken bodies would litter

my letters home, and Life would luster its pages
with two hundred forty-two faces in “One Week’s Toll.”


Rigid, upright, your posture had always seemed
more pose than poise. Dad tiptoed around you,

his ceramic doll. Your glaze dulled my years.
You careened through opaque perils,

always tense, brittle, tilting at the edge.
When I felt a closing in, the air

sucking thin. When, boy-busy, I never thought
of hidden bottles. Then, home from college

one night: you, my beloved mother,
tottering like a vase in jeopardy,

primly louche in the frame of my door.


Greg McBride is the author of Porthole, winner of the Liam Rector First Book Prize for Poetry (Briery Creek Press, 2012), and Back of the Envelope (Southeast Missouri State University Press, 2009). His awards include the Boulevard Emerging Poet Prize and a grant in poetry from the Maryland State Arts Council. His work appears in Bellevue, Boulevard, Gettysburg Review, Harvard Review Online, River Styx, Salmagundi, and Southern Poetry Review. A Vietnam veteran, he edits the Innisfree Poetry Journal