D.E. Steward


Note well that seventy-five percent of the earth’s land now is significantly altered and that over eighty-five percent of world wetlands are finished and cleared, gone.

The short season in May of the high black locusts’ ivory blossoms drifting diagonally on the breeze is over in days

“This morning is drunk with spring sun”  (Anna Akmatova, tr. Judith Hemschemeyer)

The little blossoms themselves, wherever they land, remain for a week or so

Blown around in the sunny air

Under the fresh leafed-out hardwoods off above the lawn

Body flash whiteness in the low evening sun of a bird off the top of a high dying white ash beside one of the flowering black locusts

Gray kingbird, Tyrannus dominicensis, a southern bird only casual here

The only now and then like fish crows here, which are shinier, smooth-feathered, shorter legs and smaller heads than the universal default  

Much of the botanical, insect and reptile inventory of the subtropics, missing here in the temperate zone  

But in spring and fall migration there are ospreys now since DDT was taken off the shelf

Absorbed by the fish the ospreys eat and softening the shells of osprey eggs

That DDT poison chain was like the devastating plume trade in egret feathers

Off down here at twenty-six degrees walking Collier County’s white fine sand  

By Big Cypress and Everglades National Park off toward the Keys

Fish crow patrolled, osprey surveyed, magnificent frigate bird determined, brown pelican picketed, black skimmer defined

Red, black, and white mangroves, lignum vitae, on the estuary inlets and barrier coasts   

The ancient baldcypress loft all gone except for the few big trees preserved

They were part of the lost totality of the great pre-Euro settlement forest  

Taiga to the Gulf of Mexico  

Here now even the seagrape and button mangrove are generally bulldozed and burned for the Collier County’s golf resort hotel and retirement tract development

Fish crows in twos and threes checking everything below

“Particle is to beach as pebble is to real estate. / Reality is to reality as sky is to earth.”  (Paul Muldoon, “Recalculating”)

There were random fishing camps and cabin settlements here before  

Very few other than Calusa grandparents were born here

En los esteros

Having to do with this coast’s deep past

The same as the whole of the Americas  


Les Murray wrote that reading a “real” poem, “is marked by a strange simultaneity of stillness and racing excitement. Our mind wants to hurry on and have more and more of it, but at the same time it is held by an awe which yearns to prolong the moment and experience it as timeless.”

Murray’s “wholespeak” envelops all that lives, and all that has

He died the next to last day of last month

“You and I will sit for awhile in the kitchen”  (Mandelstam)

Gilder’s white

Bone white


“You can get the idea of Ashbery in two pages, almost everything after that is sludge.”  (William Logan)

Logan disparaged les Murray as well

“We have done as much damage to the fate of the planet and its ability to sustain human life and civilization since Al Gore published his first book on the climate than in all the centuries – all the millennums – that came before.”  (David Wallace-Wells)

Cambridge University’s current answers to the greenhouse effect are mass spritzing of seawater into the clouds so that salt crystals make them more reflective, rocket launched small reflective disks to create a sort of parasol to shade the planet, and orderly groves of machined metallic artificial trees to filter the carbon dioxide    

”Civilization now depends on self-deception. Perhaps it always has.”  (Ted Chiang)

Titanium white

Der Spiegel claimed that in Germany an average of eight hundred people a year throw themselves in front of speeding trains

Key West remains

There due south of everything else in the lower forty-eight   

Elizabeth Bishop, John Hersey, Marie-Claire Blais, Jimmy Merrill only to his friends, Earnest never Ernie after childhood and maybe not even then, and Tennessee’s bizarre

Like Stevie Wonder’s harmonica in Dionne Warwick’s “That’s What Friends Are For”

Too much Cayo Hueso for metropolitans   

Where an American crocodile thrives in the salt bonds by the airport

No Burmese pythons yet, no closer than on Big Pine up the Keys

Pigeon-plum and gorgeous gumbo limbo

Coco-plum, strangler figs, melaleuca that Australian import, saltmarsh, locust berry’s white to pink to crimson blossoms

Hammocks, mangrove swamps, canals

Coral reef and oolityic limestone base

Los esteros

Being the flat-water passages and ponds where black skimmers feed, full under-bite lower mandibles skimming the surface for tiny fish at low tide, dusk, at night  

Black skimmer defined

They walk and run well, at times fledglings left ashore charge into the shallows, lower mandibles extended, to ape the adults skimming by

They live long the three North American coasts, and across northern South America to Bolivia and northern Argentina (have seen them over the Iguazu River on the flat water upstream from the falls)

In Africa south of the Sahara, and all over South Asia to the Mekong

Running west on I-75 now, Alligator Alley, into white-sanded Collier County in the lowering beryl evening haze’s occlusive glare

Birds galore flaring up off to the sides of the interstate but driving too fast to generally identify

But black vultures circling, an American kestrel high on a wire, a night heron probably a yellow-crowned

Two wood storks for sure, their huge mandibles flying flat look a lot like skimmers’                                                                                               

Half a dozen unidentifiables from over the steering wheel while going seventy-five

Headed for a big Shanghai wedding on Marco Island and all that entails and implies

Missing the keen intensity of the father of the bride

He stopped by when he must have known that he probably soon would die

Again, “You and I will sit for awhile in the kitchen”  (Mandelstam)

We shared times like that for many years

I asked him once where he would live when he was an old man, the US or China

He looked puzzled and then answered politely that he couldn’t say

He died at sixty-four  

Still almost impossible to accept that Yu Dingwei is no more

And happy as a black skimmer skimming to be so much alive

In this deeply empty evening light

Carib Florída high humidity early evening haze

About the author
D. E. Steward
’s five volumes of Chroma, seventy-two months each, came out in 2018 from Avant-Garde Classics/Amazon. Chroma is a month-to-month calendar book, a further volume of months is accumulating of which this submission is one.

Paul Levine

The R/V Thompson

I spent the early part of my academic life dreaming of becoming an oceanographer.  Not the George Costanza marine biologist kind, but a real one.  A towering figure, with a grizzled and tanned look and unkempt beard housing sea salt, barnacles and icicles that could only result from sailing the seven seas.  It was an inevitable dream, having spent half my childhood growing up near the ocean in Rockaway Beach, Queens.  I could look out the window and see the Atlantic pounding the shore, and occasionally witness hurricane force winds cause the ocean to overflow the peninsula, and meet up with Jamaica Bay, only four blocks away.  We lived on the slimmest of land between the wind-driven waters. My childhood revolved around summer swims, boogey boards and bicycling along the boardwalk year-round. The views were always glorious. It was the only good thing about living in the projects, as the architecture had all the allure of another, nearby seaside community, on the other side of the borough.  Rikers Island. 

As an undergrad, I supported myself by working summer jobs and shelving books in the library while on campus.  But the best source of income was working on a small research vessel (R/V), the R/V Micmac, that was operated by SUNY Stony Brook. Several weekends a semester, we’d  load up the vehicles with all sorts of gear, electronics, rope, floats, and sampling devices and drive to the Micmac’s last berth, more often than not at the Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point or Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island, depending on our intended sampling plan.  We spent a lot of time “cruising” New York Harbor and taking samples of water, sediments and sludge. It was tough and physical work that was conducted in all types of weather, day and night. Though we completed several trips around Long Island, the East River was most often our intended target, as our research attempted to rectify the appalling water quality conditions that existed in the early 1970s.  The East River particularly was anoxic and unable to support marine life.  Failing wastewater treatment plants were discharging untreated sewage into the river and this research provided the data necessary to improve water quality within New York’s real gem.  The harbor.  Though my role was small, I still take a certain amount of pride whenever I look out at the harbor, knowing that I contributed to its improvement.

I was elated to be accepted to the University of Washington’s Graduate School of Oceanography. And I was particularly excited to hop on board the R/V Thompson for my first “cruise” on a real ship.  Every student was required to go to sea after the first year, and I couldn’t wait.  The Thompson was an oceanographic research vessel, purpose built in 1963, for the UNOLS, the University National Oceanographic Laboratory System.  It was 1,200 tons and 209 feet in length; about two thirds the distance to the right field fence in Yankee Stadium.  It drafted 16 feet with a more than adequate cruising velocity, mid-throttle.  It was capable of carrying 14 civilian mariners and up to 30 scientists in rather sparse, close quarters.  Relative to the Micmac, it was an aircraft carrier.  Its deck was an obstacle course of hoists, hooks, tanks, cables, wires, dredges, bottles, flasks, pipettes, meters, floats, freezers, cores, rope, scuba gear, microscopes and sophisticated navigation equipment to support the multiple ongoing investigations.  There were bunks, well-fitted labs, and dining areas onboard.  A serious vessel.  If you looked close enough, you could spy the occasional, illicit fishing rod or two, smuggled on board for extracurricular activities and the freshest of meals.  The Thompson could venture out to sea for weeks.  The real sea. The sea where you couldn’t see anything but the sea. 

One year of landlocked studies, on all aspects of geologic, chemical, physical and biological oceanography was under my belt.  I claimed to understand the science behind tides, but I really didn’t.  Something to do with the moon. It was June, and loading the Thompson started at the university’s dock on Portage Bay.  We’d transit the Ballard locks, together with legions of salmon commuting from Puget Sound.  We were heading for the North Pacific; I couldn’t tell you where, but it seemed like a great, albeit undefined destination, in a big ocean. The voyage included more planning than the Skipper and Gilligan conducted on their ill-fated three-hour tour.  I left the navigation to the captain.  He seemed capable of reading all the dials.

Like all grad students, I was more or less surviving on canned tuna and PB&J sandwiches.  Our stipends, after deductions for tuition, housing and taxes, left little for food.  Food was a luxury and I was always hungry. You can imagine my excitement when I entered the galley.  There was a spread of cold cuts, rolls and pastries that I hadn’t seen since my cousin’s Bar Mitzvah years ago.  I couldn’t help but guzzle.  Turns out we had a prominent stowaway.  The chef, a navy vet, was the recently retired head chef at the Olympic Hotel, Seattle’s premier hotel, and quite coincidentally, the site of the original university.  He signed on to relive his younger days at sea and provide nutritional pleasure to the crew.  Even his coffee tasted better than anything I ever drank. Perhaps it was the Starbucks effect?  The upstart coffee house had just opened at the Pike Place Market, three years prior, and was developing a loyal following.  I felt like a Biafran refugee who lacked sufficient protein, but was instead given  his choice of limitless coconut cream pie or apple turnovers.  What to do? 

“Hold on there, son, “ chef cautioned.  “This is your first outing, isn’t it?  Pace yourself.  Everyone gets sea sick the first time out, and I’d rather you not barf my meatloaf over the side.  No sense feeding the fish.”

“Good advice,” I assured him, “but I’ve been doing oceanographic research for years in New York Harbor and Long Island Sound.  I think I have my sea legs.  Plus, I took some Dramamine, just in case.”

“Suit yourself,” he said with a knowing smile. “But don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.” I think I heard him utter under his breath, “Grad students. They’re all the same.”  He was right. We were all pompous.

By now we had passed the locks and were heading north, up the Puget Sound.  Seattle’s skyline was fading in the distance.  It was a rare, beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest.  Not a cloud in the sky. As we headed north, the Sound was increasingly choppy, as the protective barriers and islands opened more fully to the ocean, exposing us to wind, waves and currents. By the time we were nearing the coast of Vancouver Island, I realized this cruise was not my father’s Oldsmobile.  As we entered the Straits of Juan de Fuca, I started to feel the ocean beneath.  We were on the Pacific side of Vancouver Island now, on a bearing of 315 degrees, heading out to nowhere in the rough waters of the Pacific.  Not at all what I expected.

It was undeniable, I was sea sick and I made my way over to a secluded place where I could hide my embarrassment and expel, in projectile fashion, hardly digested chocolate chips over the side.  I’m guessing the fish enjoyed my sugary supplement to their otherwise bland and staple diet of plankton. 

There are only so many places where you can hide on board a ship. Chef was watching from a distance and came over.  He recognized the symptoms immediately. “Try to look at something that’s not moving.  Like the horizon,” he advised.

“Either I have vertigo, or the whole fucking world is moving.”  I felt no need to edit my speech.  Chef was navy and he’d heard worse than I knew.  “Hang in there.  You’ll be here for a while,” he encouraged while injecting reality simultaneously.  For sure, he was smiling when he turned back to the galley. It was an all-knowing smile.

I stayed outside for a long time.  Hours.  Days on end.  I couldn’t go inside; the air was stale and smelled of diesel only I could detect.  There wasn’t enough Dramamine onboard to ease my condition. The sight of food was a trigger; my apologies to the chef.  I wasn’t even hungry. I must have lost 10 pounds in seven days; it was better than Weight Watchers.  I was skinny then. But there was good news.  I became everyone’s favorite shipmate and learned to use most every piece of equipment on board.  Why?  Not because people felt sorry for me, but because I volunteered to take most every “watch.”  A watch being the time you were designated to take samples.  To the extent I didn’t have to go inside, I stayed outside.  It was only exhaustion that allowed me to periodically overcome the diesel fumes and get some shuteye, often wrapped in a blanket on deck.  They say the worst thing about being sea sick is that you know you’re not going to die. It’s true. I was drained as we headed back to port.  But I could proudly say that my name was associated with most every sample collected on that voyage.  I was hoping someone would name a submerged butte after me, at the very least.  No such luck.

We arrived back on land after about 10 days at sea.  We didn’t head all the way back to Seattle, but rather docked at the Neah Bay Indian Reservation, the far northwest corner of the state, where another crew replaced us.  I was the first to disembark.  Even the van ride back to Seattle remained uncomfortable, though increasingly comfortable after the last ferry ride out of Bremerton across the Sound.  Fortunately, chef never mocked me on the ride back; he remained on ship, preparing goodies for the next crew. Undoubtedly, he was scouting out the next newbie, who’d be wise to take his advice.

When we arrived back to Seattle, I thought long and hard about my future.  Oceanography was my life’s ambition.  How could I be an oceanographer if I got sea sick?  I transferred to the School of Forestry after several weeks on dry land and a new appreciation for PB&J.  I never saw chef again, though I often sat on the university dock on the bay to watch the Thompson sail on to its next adventure without me.  I visit the dock each time I return to Seattle.  It’s tradition.

I still cruise, but on ships with names like Ovation of the Seas or Norwegian Dawn, with 4,000 passengers, 1,000 crew, a pool, an endless buffet and onboard entertainment.  The ships are so big that you’re unaware that you’re riding on a buoyant, moving fluid.  If you do feel movement, you’re in deep fluid. Whenever I’m on such ships, I have an irresistible desire to throw a sample bottle over the side, retrieve a water sample, and bring one home as a souvenir from each port of call.  I still wonder what life would have been like had I been able to tolerate life at sea on a smaller vessel.  I’ll never know.

About the author
Paul Levine
is retired and is now filling his free time with combinations of day dreaming, telling fibs, and teaching an introductory class in sustainability at Middlesex College. Other hobbies include eating vanilla crème cookies from Aldi’s and pretending that he can do so as long as he attends spin class. He continues to be a regular at Nancy Demme’s writer’s group, exploring interests that have remained dormant for years. When not writing, he finds periodic solace in participating in current events and investment forums, demonstrating his lack of expertise in both. With the pandemic in the rear-view mirror, he will revisit and attend to his bucket list, so he can bring new stories to life.


by Dorothy K. Kohrherr

My mother ironed her way through six games of the 1953 World Series. Mel Allen was ever present in our living room, although he never sat on the couch, had a beer with my Dad, or stayed for dinner. Billy Martin’s three run triple in the first game match up between the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers was not met with wild cheering, but the quiet rhythm of my mother extending her arms to lift and pull the linen tablecloth up and over the wooden ironing board. Yogi Berra’s home run on the Philco’s 20-inch screen, reflected an image of my mother running the iron back and forth across my father’s crisply starched shirt, creating order out of the chaos of wrinkled cotton. She expertly turned the shirt almost inside out to iron under the collar and yoke, moved onto the cuffs and sleeves, and finished with the back of the shirt and then the fronts. Her domain was not Yankee stadium or Ebbets Field, but 19 Jefferson Avenue, New Brunswick, New Jersey. The house, strong and sturdy, rested on a 50’ x 100’ plot of land in the sixth ward, the Irish section of town. The three bedroom, one bath up, with a living room, dining room, kitchen down, was built in 1940, and purchased by Robert (Bob) and Madeline Kane in January 1942 for $7200.

Jefferson Avenue was my neighborhood growing up. A small town within a city. People knew who you were. You knew who you were. I was Bob and Madeline’s daughter. The second child sandwiched between two brothers. A sister came later. I could walk the neighborhood to visit cousins and if out of line sent home. The streetlights set boundaries in time and place.

I was seven years old in 1954. My brother, Bob was eleven, a worldly eleven. He and his friends built clubhouses in the woods and told me stories of the fox that roamed there ready to attack if I dared ventured into his “territory.” One afternoon, Bob and his friends teased me, “Nah nah nah nah yesterday we saw the fox run through the woods and he was looking for little girls.”

One of our neighbors had polio. Every Halloween dressed as ghosts and goblins kids would be ushered into her bedroom. Her head stuck out of the iron lung. Her “costume” a giant tin can that helped her breathe. We stood still as statues on the floor’s white line so she could see us reflected in the mirror over her head.

At school we practiced “Duck and Cover,” air raid drills. We were taught to crouch, shield our eyes, and scrunch into the tightest balls possible in order to protect ourselves in the event that the Soviet Union dropped an atomic bomb.

Some nights I would lay awake, hiccuping tears and watching the shadows move across the ceiling. The shapes changed from a fox stalking me, teeth bared ready to pounce, to the polio virus that could “freeze” my muscles and then the virus morphed into a giant Soviet mushroom cloud that would kill us all. When I couldn’t sleep, I would ask my Dad for a story. He told me that scary things happen, but he had been in the war to make the world safe. He would give me a hug and sometimes ask me to read him a story. I had mastered the art of changing lines and shapes into words and he wanted to know what I could do; just like when he taught me how to ride a two-wheeler. I read from the Poky Little Puppy, “Five little puppies dug a hole under the fence and went for a walk in the wide, wide world….”

From April to June that year, the Army-McCarthy hearings were taking place in our living room. The living room where we lived our lives: a fire on chilly autumn evenings, Madeline playing canasta with her card club, the kids’ table at Thanksgiving, the Christmas tree in the corner, a bookcase filled with poetry, great quotations, and the latest novels, and the chairs where Bob and Madeline read the paper, had a drink before dinner and shared the details of the day. There were the stairs my father climbed each morning with a thermos of coffee. He left it on my mother’s nightstand before he left for work. A kiss while he was on the road.

In June 1954 my mother’s ironing board was set up in front of the television. Senator Joe McCarthy was sparring with U.S. Army special counsel Joseph Welch. Amidst the hearing’s discord, my mother smoothed pillowcases. The easy rhythm of the iron’s back and forth motion pressed school clothes and Sunday dresses. McCarthy’s accusations were accompanied by smirks, tight thin-lipped looks of disgust, and at times he waved his glasses to deflect Welch’s comments as one would swat at an annoying mosquito. Even then I knew that my mother would not entertain the thought of inviting McCarthy to a neighborhood cocktail party or Fourth of July picnic. I saw a smile spread across her face as Mr. Welch responded to Senator McCarthy’s attacks on Fred Fisher, “You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir?”

My father’s shirts were hung neatly over the arm of the floor lamp. The laundry basket was filled with freshly ironed sheets and pillowcases. My mother turned off the television, folded the ironing board and began to prepare dinner before my father came home. After dinner, it was the Howdy Doody show, a story and then bedtime.

In 2011 world events are much like those of 1954: the U.S. is sending aid to Japan, China’s economy is growing, and the President of Egypt was forced to resign. I like to iron. The steam warms the spring day as I turn the antique towel face down shaping the monogram; my mind wanders as I move my arm back and forth creating the rhythm of comfort and accomplishment. In many ways, I’m unlike my mother and father. I’ve lived in small apartments, in the middle of a potato field, and on a 125-acre farm raising Christmas trees and ostriches. One year I spent 200 days at Memorial Sloan Kettering when my infant daughter was diagnosed with stage III cancer. Today, I live I the “beehive,” a condo community for “active seniors.” But when anyone asks, “Where are you from?” I always answer, “19 Jefferson Avenue, New Brunswick, New Jersey.” It is the DNA of my soul, just as much as my mother’s hazel eyes and my father’s straight nose.

As I smooth the towel, I glance at an old black and white photograph. I’m standing tall on the front steps of number 19. It is my fifth birthday. I’m dressed in my new cowgirl outfit, a gift from my mother and father: boots, short skirt trimmed with fringe, a vest, neck scarf and a hat that would make Dale Evans turn green with envy. Slung around my waist was my “gun belt” with silver “six shooter.” I was ready to take on the world.

The phone rings, my daughter Corinne, asks, “Mom, are you concerned about my political angst over the death of Bin Laden?”

“The truth,” I replied, “I’m ironing.”


Author Bio:

Dorothy K. Kohrherr retired from a 35–year teaching career and presently serves as an educational consultant. Her essays have been published in Visible Ink (Memorial Sloan Kettering’s writing magazine), the NJEA Review, and the Kelsey Review. She lives in Lawrenceville, NJ after many years raising ostriches on a small farm outside of Lambertville, NJ.

They Are Taking Him Away

By Luz Nereida Horta

I sit at the counter stool in my kitchen where I can look into the dining room and see my son conversing and laughing with his friends. I pretend that I can’t hear what is being said but I am taking in every word he is saying.  I need to cherish every last word he says for soon he will no longer be my son. He is sharing childhood stories, telling his friends of things he has done to his siblings. He tells the story of how he once put a blue capsule in the shower head so that when his brother showered he would turn blue. Now I realize why my bathtub has blue stains that I can’t remove, still I laugh and cry silently – how can they take him away?

I stare at the clock, six more hours and my son will be no more. How I wish I could stop time.  Where is my husband, why isn’t he near me to comfort me? I find him outside standing, staring out into the yard; his eyes are as red as mine. He says, “I could have been a better father,” and I say, “I could have been a better mother, but would it have changed anything?” We hug each other and I walk back to my place at the kitchen. Five hours remaining. If only I could stop time. He is much too young, why does he have to leave now, why are they taking him away?

My thoughts are interrupted as a wave of laughter comes from the dining room. My son is telling yet another story. He is recalling how he had cut out small footprints that led into the hallway closet. He told my youngest son that they were the footprints of a leprechaun or monster that hid in our closet. Now I realize why his younger brother is afraid to go upstairs alone or why he dashes quickly past the closet doors.

Well, I must confess that I don’t think this disclosure is funny, considering that I had spent time and money taking my youngest son to a therapist because of these phobias he developed. We couldn’t understand his apprehensions, until now. But I can’t get upset at a time like this, there are only four hours left and we will never see our son again.

Such little time left and he is choosing to spend it with his friends. I think he is trying to cope with the situation the best he can. I can no longer cry quietly, I go into the bathroom where I start to wail, softening my sorrowful cry by placing a bathroom towel over my mouth. Suddenly, my state of mind shifts and I quickly pull the towel away from my face and stare into it. Just learning that my son is a prankster I wonder if he had done anything with towels, too. I find myself laughing and crying at the same time.

Two hours remaining, I don’t know if I can make it. It is late and some of my son’s friends have fallen asleep on the couch, on the floor, wherever they could find a spot. My husband has joined me at the kitchen and we sit in silence. I start reminiscing about the first time we brought our son into our home and the mistakes we made as first time parents. Why is it that we prefer to place guilt on ourselves at a time like this? Nothing we could have done would have changed the fact that they are taking away my son. Truth is we did the very best we could and we did raise a good son.

One hour remaining and I don’t know if I can keep it together. Darkness only makes my sorrow deepen. I cannot believe my son is still reminiscing with the few friends that are awake. He should spend his last hour with us, his mom and dad, doesn’t he realize that we are falling apart, that our pain is so deep and rooted that it will change who we are forever? What I mean is, he doesn’t understand the ramifications of what is about to happen.  He really is too young to be taken away. He is still a little boy at heart.

I can hear the minutes ticking away and silence is beginning to fill the air, no more laughter and no more talking. My son’s last moments and he walks into the kitchen. “Mom and Dad, I love you so very much and I am sorry that I have to go, you didn’t do anything wrong. You have given me a good life and I will never forget.” Forgetting his strength and size, an issue that has plagued him since he was born, he hugs me until I feel I have been deflated. He doesn’t want to let me go and I don’t want him to.

We sit in silence awaiting the foreseeable and then I hear the sounds of wheels as a car enters our gravel driveway. For sure my beating heart will wake the neighbors! Can I keep my heart in place, how can I stop this from happening? “Oh, God, please help!” The sounds of feet on my wooden porch get louder and louder as do my prayers. “Mom, its time, Mom, sorry for the things I did when I was younger, I love you.” The dreaded knock on the door and I can see the silhouette of this person who has come to take my son away.  I should hate him but he is only doing his job.

My son’s sleeping friends leap up from their sleeping positions, boys and girls alike are now teary-eyed as they give their last goodbye to the person they knew.

I can’t open the door, that job is left to my husband. Standing at attention is a tall lean Marine; my son takes his position, and salutes the Marine, who yells, “Are you ready to be a Marine?  “Sir, Yes Sir,” responds my son proudly.

I watch as my son walks away, his heavy footsteps making the old porch creak. He walks side-by-side, next to the Marine taking my son away. While I feel a moment of pride, the feeling is quickly overshadowed. I can’t stop thinking that my son is leaving, never to return as we had known him. As if reading my mind, the young Marine turns around and with conviction in his spoken words says to me, “Madam I am here to claim recruit George William Horta III – your son leaves today a boy but will return to you – a MAN.”


Author Bio:

Luz Nereida Horta is employed as the Executive Director of a Child Care Center in Hightstown, NJ. Originally from the Bronx, NY, she has lived in the Hightstown/East Windsor Area for over 40 years. Married 43 years, she and her husband are the parents of five adult children and ten grandchildren.