Portage by Judy Halebsky

Don’t tell my father                               that the police               drive down my street
in armor               standing on their bumpers                 holding AK 47s

we march down Telegraph with signs
people come out of their houses       cheer for us as we pass

at the Berkeley Y, I hear women speaking my grandmother’s language
the one she tried to pass on to my father

don’t tell him               country of his sleep dream
of his overland passage

he learned physics in high school so when he got drafted
they didn’t send him to be boots on the ground

raised unbridled I was               unhindered by reality     I didn’t know
that luck could take or leave your life

Dad says at 84 I’m doing pretty good                         I nod 
I forget the words sometimes he says                that’s all

Judy Halebsky is the author of the poetry collections Tree Line and Sky = Empty. Originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia, she spent five years studying in Japan on fellowships from the Japanese Ministry of Culture. She lives in Oakland and teaches at Dominican University of California.

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