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A POEM FOR HER SON

This poem about Richey's son appears in the current issue of Bellevue Literary Review:

The Barn Swallows

My son is always leaving.

Sometimes he looks back and waves good bye.

Sometimes he just disappears.

Where is he now? In the air

returning from Poland?

On the ground, training at Fort Bragg?

The day he graduated from West Point

the sun was so bright I couldn't see

the Secretary of Defense, a dark speck under the white awning

on a makeshift stage, saying something

about the world, about danger,

a different kind of war.

No one else seemed to notice

the barn swallows swoop in

like a swarm of enormous black butterflies,

their throats bloodied,

marring the brilliance of the sky.

They arrived out of nowhere,

the way my son was suddenly man.

As each new Lieutenant shook

the Secretary's hand, the swallows dipped

and keened over the field, the barracks,

those gray castles of learning,

the dead generals bronzed on pedestals.

What had drawn them to this moment,

the red sash and the saber?

What had drawn my son to this life?

Where had it come from,

his certainty of purpose?

When I was my son's age, I had no faith.

Now I believe in the prescience of wings,

each bird, its presentation of colors,

bearing the messages we pray will never come.

Looking down through borrowed binoculars

into the perfect rows,

I searched for my son's face.