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My Father’s Business
by Vince Gotera

When the boy Jesus was lost in Jerusalem
and his worried parents finally found him, he said,
“Why are you looking for me? Didn’t you know
I must be about my father’s business?”

In my first job, I too was about my father’s
business. Just as my father, in his first job,
was about his father’s business. Soldiering.
I come from a line of US Army soldiers.

My father and my grandfather were both
Philippine Scouts. When I was growing up
the drill around our house was The Army Way.
There were many ways to do everything

but the one right way was the Army Way.
How to make a bed. How to sweep
and mop a floor. How to spit shine shoes.
How to peel potatoes. When I joined up

I found out the hard way that peeling spuds
in KP was not a joke, not a myth,
but a long day with a paring knife and
a bushel of potatoes. Maybe two.

The Army Way was learning how to march
hours in the hot sun on the parade ground,
rifle at shoulder arms. How to run miles,
rifle at port arms, held diagonal in front.

But the truth of that first job was not
in the physical conditioning, nor
in the regimented life of rules and
regulations. It was in the Army Way

my father had all along been teaching me:
the real Army Way. Honor. Tradition.
Respect. Defense of our Democracy.
Securing Freedom with our very lives.

First job, my father’s business, the Army Way.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Since the poem mentions my father and my father’s father, I thought this 1972 picture of me as a father was appropriate. My newborn son here is Marty, who is now 44.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was a joy to write. I was blocked about it for weeks until I thought of that intro about “my father’s business,” and then the poem, as they say, wrote itself. A gift from the poetry cosmos, a loose pentameter where the line breaks — fortuitous enjambments and useful endstops — seemed to just fall into place.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vince Gotera is a Professor of English at the University of Northern Iowa, where he served as Editor of the North American Review. In August 2017, he will become Editor of Star*Line, the print journal of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association. Work recently appeared in Killjoy Literary Magazine (cover art), Abyss & Apex, Inigo Online Magazine, and haikuniverse. He won the 2017 Stone Canoe Veterans Writing Prize. Blog: The Man with the Blue Guitar.