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  Home > Mainstream > Poetry > What If:Vol 5-4:Goodbye
  1. in time for Mother's Day
  2. Talking to an Ancient Moonah Tree.
  3. The Pursuit of Happiness
  6. WE ARE
  7. Every Child Needs
  8. Traffic Light
  9. R E D
  10. Taking Stock
  11. Landlubber
  12. Can’t Live if Livin’ is Without You
  13. unraveling...
  14. Pi Day
  15. Here we go again, maybe...
  16. Changes...
  17. It's the Law
Recent poems by
Mark M Lichterman

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Popular: Books, Stories, Articles, Poetry

Recent poems by
Mark M Lichterman

• Really, What If

• Words, I Need Words!

• Sex Now

• Smoke in The Wind

• Young

• Elderly Woman

• As Man And Woman

• Without A Woody?

What If:Vol 5-4:Goodbye
By Mark M Lichterman   

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What if I never lied?
What if we parted in 1952 and never saw each other again... until?
What if we did meet again... sixty years later?
What if we never met in the first place?
What if?
Vol 5-4 can be found following Vol 5-3


What If: Vol 5-3



Midafternoon on this day

the young man

drove to Talman Avenue,

stopped in front of Susan’s building,

looked at her bedroom window,

drove to the corner,

made a U-turn,

passed the building without a glance,

went east on Peterson,

north on Ridge,

east on Howard until he found the building,

then stopped,


put three pennies into the parking meter

and walked through the door of a one-room,

storefront office.


“…A test?”

He asked,

“I’ve got to take a test?”


Tapping the eraser end of a pencil

onto the desk-set blotter,

“That’s right.”


The young man looked about the sparkling clean office:


Centered on the wall behind the desk were two flags:

one, the Stars and Stripes;

the other,

deep blue with a gold,

nautical emblem.

Between the flags was a picture of President Eisenhower.

Hanging on the wall were photographs of ocean-going vessels.

On an easel to the left of the high-sheen varnished desk

was a large poster of a sharp-prowed ship

slicing through mountainous seas.


“So, you in?”



Straightening his back.

 “Yes, Sir, I’m in.”


“Good. You won’t be sorry.”

Opening the top drawer of the desk,

Chief Petty Officer Brian Walters removed a sheath of papers.

“We do the paperwork here,

then tomorrow you go to Civil Service downtown

for the physical exam and written test,

and if you pass ’em both—”

Walters looked at the young man over his glasses—

“and I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t

you’re in the United States Coast Guard…

You do know the term of enlistment is four years?”


Four years away from his home.

Four years away from his family.

Four years!

But he could not stay here!

He could not stay in this close proximity to Susan

and not be allowed to see Susan,

to love Susan.

He could not!

“Four years…

Yes, Sir.”



Chief Petty Officer Brian Walters said.

“Name: last first;

first name;

then middle initial.”


What If: Vol 5-4

10/8/52: Goodbye


Finding it all but impossible to sleep on this

his last night at home,

sleeping but a few hours,

awakening before dawn

the young man felt the anticipated loneliness

as a factual weight upon his stomach…

as a factual weight upon his heart.

With hands crossed behind his head

he stared into the shadowy darkness until

daylight mottled the ceiling and walls.

Coming off the bed,

sitting on the floor before his dresser,

taking it from the bottom drawer,

holding the luxurious folds of the

cranberry-colored cashmere sweater

tightly to his face he closed his eyes

and the emotion of the past four months,

along with the knowledge that in two hours

he’ll be leaving his home and all that has he loved

ripped through him as dynamite upon a floodgate and,

sitting cross-legged on the cold linoleum floor

with the softness of Susan’s sweater tightly held against his face he cried.

He cried until there were no tears left to cry,

then replaced the cranberry-colored sweater into the drawer.

Lifting himself from the floor,

going into the bathroom,

he brushed his teeth and washed and shaved.


At 6:40 a.m., five days after taking a physical exam and a written test,

after signing papers and swearing to defend the United States of America,

the young man gave his car keys to his mother,

and after tearful hugs and kisses goodbye to her and his brothers

waving goodbye from the curb,

his canvas bag held in one hand

and a manila envelope containing

indoctrination papers in the other,

the young man was driven to Union Station by his father.


Waiting for the call to

 “All aboard”,

they stood at the same platform that

four and a half months ago

he had stood

when he awaited the train that was to take him to

Rochester for the entrance exam that,


brought him back to this exact place,

at this exact time.


The father and son waited in silence.

Each smoking a cigarette,

both tried to think of appropriate

words to say to each other.


“All aboard!

All aboard!”


Dropping their cigarettes to the concrete,

grinding them beneath the toes of their shoes.




“Yeah, Dad, I guess…”



as though pushed by some unknown force,

their arms about each other

the young man felt the roughness of his father’s unshaved cheek

as, his eyes moistening,

“Dad, I love you.”


Saying what he had never said,

“Me, too,”the father said to his son,

“I love you, too.”

Breaking the hold of their arms,

“Take care of yourself.”


“I will, Dad.”

Turning from his father…

but turning back,

giving him one last, fast hug,

he saw something he had never seen before:

his father’s eyes were bloodshot and watery…

Turning away,

without looking back,

he ran to the train,

up the steps and into the coach.


The train left Union Station at 8:05 a.m.



To be continued

©March 25, 2012 / Mark M. Lichterman




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Recent Poetry by this author.     All Poetry by this author
• Really, What If

• Words, I Need Words!

• Sex Now

• Smoke in The Wind

• Young

• Elderly Woman

• As Man And Woman

• Without A Woody?

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