September 2023

Back to Issue 14


By paul Bluestein

My father, James, and I boarded the overnight flight to Orly

although he had no ticket, no luggage and no passport. 

I would be outbound the next day, but he would be staying

to keep a promise he had made to Johnny Callahan, 

known to carry a four-leaf clover, but whose luck ran out 

on Omaha Beach one overcast spring morning. 

The generals had chosen young and unseasoned men

to lead the first wave. The ones who had not yet seen 

what bullets and mortar shells could do. 

Whitecaps splashing over the sides of the landing craft 

painted their ghostly cheeks with saltwater tears 

and soaked their battle-dress, leaving them shivering, 

whether with cold or fear was hard to tell. 

With the desperate superstition of soldiers, 

they swore that when the war was finished, 

they would meet there again in the quiet of peace.

Now that covenant would be kept, 

sixty years to the day it had been made.

Jimmy had returned to Normandy

to rest with the Virginia boys he remembered so well,

and wished he could have forgotten.