My Grandfather’s Parka

My Grandfather’s Parka / by Laura M Kaminski

honoring the memory of Rev. W.R. Bottoms, Lt. Col. (Ret.), U.S. Army

I look at my husband at the edge
of the lake, bundled and warm,
in an inherited parka —
my grandfather’s parka —
watching ripples of the molten
glacier greeting sunlight.

Some half a century ago and more,
this parka —
my grandfather’s parka —
wrapped him, young and strong
and proud, a chaplain with
the U.S. Army in the alpine snows
of Europe, its holocaustic winter.
When we received it, the inside
pocket clutched and held protected
(against those years and that
excessive darkness) his worn
copy of a book of prayers,
Prayers for the Armed Forces,
prayers of comfort, prayers of
courage, prayers of kindness
for the enemy, and the words
to give before and after every, every
every time of dying.

How often, while the snows fell
on his hood and on his
shoulders, did his chapped
fingers, gloves removed to
offer a final human touch,
a steadying handhold to
the dying as they passed
on to meet with God — how
often did his fingers split
their cold-dried skin and
bleed (unnoticed) in the pockets
of my grandfather’s parka?

We traveled in October, a late
vacation at the lake, but now
in these still waters I glimpse
a ripple of the truth: we
were only transportation for
the celestial gyroscope, our
journey was not, as we thought,
about us. We really only came
to bring the parka —
my grandfather’s parka —
to quietly sway with the
small morning waves. We are
only one small eddy in the
universal balance, rocking gently.
We only came to bring his parka
to a place of peace.

–Laura M Kaminski

(I would like to thank Conclave: A Journal of Character, for the initial publication of this poem in Conclave: A Journal of Character Issue 6.  It is also included in the collection last penny the sun.)