Christina A. Sharik


Captiain Robert H. Phillips: WWII
For My Father, Robert H. Phillips
Captain US Army, WWII, China/Burma/India
My dad…………
sat in the dark
cried out in the night
never ate rice
had a strong sense of “right” –
Hid in a phone booth
when he came home
straight off the bus
and feeling alone.
Not sure quite yet
that his family was real;
not sure, inside,
quite how he should feel;
fought hand to hand
till a soldier was dead
(which must have replayed
many times in his head) –
Struck out at my mom
thinking she was the foe.
She woke him too fast,
and he woke too slow.
“Don’t waste your food
when children are dying”
(he would have known –
he’d seen them crying)….
I wish he had told us
what happened to him.
Sometimes we were angry
when he seemed so grim.
Scared of the outbursts
he often went through;
He was my Dad
and I say this to you.
I’m just fitting together
the man that I knew –
with the man who re-lived
in his dreams

Author’s Note: In 1998, a conversation with my Aunt Molly (the little sister mentioned in the poem, “The Phone Booth”) revealed that my father had killed at least one Japanese soldier. After a 2-week trip by ship to the States, and a long bus ride, he apparently was unable to face his family so he hid in a phone booth for a short time, watching his family wait for him. He could not believe he was home, and safe. He had nightmares. As children, we learned to simply roll over and go back to sleep. My dad was a complicated, intelligent man who loved us very much, but there were things about him we did not understand. I often wish he had shared some of what he went through. He wrote poetry and was a very talented artist. At the age of 23, he had been at war in China for almost 3 years, and was forever changed.