Climbing down from the train,
the air smells fresh and sweet.
As I walk, wet, yellow leaves
drift around my feet.
The war is over, home at last,
can’t believe its true.
Brother Al’s already here.
He’s been back now since June.
Turning up main street, its getting dark,
stores are starting to close.
Head for home? Or stop for a beer? No.
Better go see the folks. . . .
It used to seem such a long, long walk
from Cheboygan out to the farm.
It won’t take much, I’m in real fine shape,
yeah, the Army saw to that.
Remember, yesterday, my uniform
was pressed and looking sharp?
Now in steady November rain
its starting to fall apart.
No moon tonight. No light at all. Oh wait!
Why, there’s the house, the lights.
Dad’s been out and closed the barn
and the horses are in for the night.
Walking up our road, getting tired.
Starting to feel afraid?
Struggling slowly forward
in the drenching salty rain.
The last Mackinaw ferry’s leaving
a widening wake of tears.
There’s no one left to know but me!
The angry seagull screams.
The ferry lights are twinkling,
fast dimming from my sight.
Darkness washes over my head
and I slip down into the night.
At last the grey light of dawn,
I am not alone I see.
There are hundreds of us; most face-down,
drifting in the oily sea.
I think today I’ll go see Top
and ask him for a leave
and make my plans
along with my pals
for the future we’ll never see.
I’ve shined my boots,
tucked in my tie,
closed my barracks bag. ..
And now its time, my final time
I’ll just close my eyes and dream.
Al Riches, Nov 20, 2002
Dedicated to Private Carl W. Johnson, US Army Air Corpsand the forgotten men who sailed with him from Oran, Algiers, November 1943
on the ill-fated troop ship HMT Rohna