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It was 1963 or 4, summer,
and my father was driving our family
from Ft. Hood to North Carolina in our 56 Buick.
We'd been hearing about Klan attacks, and we knew

Mississippi to be more dangerous than usual.
Dark lay hanging from the trees the way moss did,
and when it moaned light against the windows
that night, my father pulled off the road to sleep.

that usually woke me from rest afraid of monsters
kept my father awake that night, too,
and I lay in the quiet noticing him listen, learning
that he might not be able always to protect us

from everything and the creatures besides;
perhaps not even from the fury suddenly loud
through my body about his trip from Texas
to settle us home before he would go away

to a place no place in the world
he named Viet Nam. A boy needs a father
with him, I kept thinking, fixed against noise
from the dark.

—Forrest Hamer

from Call & Response, 1995
Alice James Books, Farmington, Me.

Copyright 1995 by Forrest Hamer.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of Alice James Books from Call and Response. Copyright 1995 by Forrest Hamer. For further permissions information, contact Alice James Books, 238 Main St., Farmington, ME 04938,

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Forrest Hamer (1956- ) is a poet, psychologist, candidate psychoanalyst, and a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley. Hamer is the author of three poetry collections, including Rift: Poems (Four Way Press, 2007).

Learn more about Forrest Hamer at