There was life before us
my sister and I discovered
looking at photographs
we shouldn't have been looking at
of the English girl my father
was engaged to during the war.
Here she is right in front of our eyes,
the woman before my mother,
in a black lace cocktail dress,
a cigarette in a holder,
in front of the carved wooden radio,
for news from the front.
This is the war, after all,
and here she is again, somewhere
on an English beach, draped
across my father's shoulder
all of her silky skin radiant
above the soft folds of sun dress.
They stand in front of a sign
that reads 'Seaside Cottages,
two dollars.' And here she is
again, painted onto the cockpit
of my father's plane with hardly
anything on at all, and here he is
in his flight jacket, looking
in fact, happy. My sister and I each
lift our pencils like cigarettes,
taking long sultry drags to puff
out invisible rings. They rise
in the air like silver nooses
that will catch our father
and hold him to us.