TESTIFY

A photograph of Daddy
from his service in the Korean War
surfaces while I empty the attic.
Wearing a black helmet and army fatigues
he sits in a troop of nine other soldiers
a spare meal in metal pots on the ground.
I run my finger over the photograph
think back to wearing his dog tags
in middle school
because it was cool to do that.

What a gift to be memorialized
in ten-year-old eyes:
a war hero, a Southern chef
whose vinegary ham hocks
were the smell of Saturday mornings,
the teacher of bicycle riding
a firm hand on the back of the seat.

Until you let go.

The other child you hid in New York,
the venereal disease my mother
exposed to scare me chaste,
the mortgage money languished
at the race track.

But you’re gone now and what right
does the living have to judge the dead?

I have betrayed a best friend
revealed secrets she wanted kept,
relished in my own affair
with another woman’s husband,
overdrawn accounts.

A buckled photograph, a tarnished dog tag.


CHRISTINE TAYLOR, a multiracial English teacher and librarian, resides in her hometown Plainfield, New Jersey. She serves as a reader and contributing editor at OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters. Her work appears in Modern Haiku, apt, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Rumpus, Eclectica, and The Paterson Literary Review, among others. She can be found at www.christinetayloronline.com.