Sunlight haloing his silver hair,
the old priest from St. Mikeís
said you were called home
to be with Jesus and Mother Mary.
But was it Godís plan to break
your young body and char your flesh?
It wasnít mine. Or your momís.
All she could say that day
was you were her only child.
These pointy-oaks that shade you
are more mature now, more willing
to accept this unappeasable loss.
But even after thirty-three years
I still want to know why
it was so important for you to be the first
of us to go off to war, so ready to die.
Your age-streaked headstone
makes the distinction: you died with honor.
Either way, youíre gone.
Youíre a tarnished brass plaque now
on some V.F.W. post wall,
not the freckled, seventeen year-old
best friend; a blur in white clam-diggers
and Chuck Taylor Converse.
Always a step quicker, you drive
past me to the basket again and again,
release a worn Spalding basketball
which spins, hangs in slow-motion, kisses off
the white metal backboard
and chings into a chain net.
You turn, shirtless, sweaty,
grin your I - won - again smile
your mother and all the Catholic girls love,
glistening in that last summer.