Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

Riehl’s poem “TREASURE CHEST” from “Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary” tells father’s life of service…in the service [World War II] and back home

Erwin A. Thompson and Janet Grace Riehl, father-daughter writing team
Janet Grace Riehl and Erwin A. Thompson, father-daughter writing team

TREASURE CHEST
by Janet Grace Riehl
from "Sightlines: A Poet's Diary"

He labors in the grove of service.
Remembers flat tires, repaired.
Loans proffered for crises.
Then his somber face glows
with the light of a thousand-watt angel.

Memories of good turns returned
is a treasure he counts with care.
His treasure chest
of good deed stories is a full one.

Bureaucratic stupidity
circumvented to better humanity.
If there is a fetching young woman
in the story charmed
with his wit, courtesy, and good sense,
why then, all the better.

War stories as WWII platoon sergeant
overflow a section of his treasure chest.

Sure, my father earned a Silver Star for heroism in battle.
A Purple Heart commemorates his war wounds.
But memories of gratitude
from men he trained mean most to him.

His eyes,
slightly filmy from cataracts, mist over
as he tells battlefield stories not shown in movies.

Lying in a base hospital bed,
recouperating from shrapnel wounds and gangrene,
Pop met a man he trained.
"Sergeant Thompson,
I’m alive today
because of the things you made me learn.”

A buddy shivered next to my Dad in a foxhole.
“Tiger,
when I’m in a foxhole with you,
I feel safe.”

“You’re crazy!”
But, Christ! That’s really saying something.
Shells whizzing over-head and grenades exploding.
How could anyone possibly feel safe?

Men in the barracks
brought in a local French girl to have some fun.
She needed money and food for her family.
These GIs could provide both.
They passed her from bunk to bunk
until morning came.
Then these men were stricken
with amnesia and sudden blindness.

She needed to get off the post fast.
My father, not part of the evening’s fun,
escorted her to safety
as if ushering his dance partner
to the edge of the floor
when the music stops.

Sightlines:A Poet’s Diary by Janet Grace Riehl (cover)
Learn more about "Sightlines: A Poet's Diary" on the Riehlife sidebar and on Amazon where you can search inside and read reviews. One of the five sections, titled "Slim" is dedicated to the author's father, Erwin A. Thompson, and contains 20 poems revealing his character and their relationship.

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