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Mary Beth Hines

Elegy For the Boys of the B-24 Liberator

Uncles who never cried

uncle, flew bomber planes

at eighteen, nineteen,

twenty, deafened, shot

down, saved, and purple-

hearted, air-medaled,

oak-leaf-clustered, greatest

generation, released

to tell the tale, who never

talked about it. Instead,

taught us card tricks,

how to throw a baseball,

soothe a snarling street dog,

books we ought to read,

places to never travel—

curated gifts—childhood

games to get lost in,

stories flush with morals,

the fine art of forgetting

all that might wreck us.


Remember this: how we took

the long way down, obeyed

the signs and the sagging lengths

of yellow twine, skirted the dunes

to save the piping plovers

that year, every year, April

almost May, and still bitter,

when the Brewster mudflats

are moon—wind-ridged, cratering

beneath boots, mud tires, marine grade

wire mesh oyster cages and you,

in your wind breaker, hood up,

and buffeted, pacing like a tiger

in a recurring fever dream—

always hungry, fighting gravity,

barbed eyes parsing through pools,

predators and prey and our rifling,

amateur litany of taxonomy—heron,

gull, and scrabbling frightened fiddlers,

the demand of life to hang on

to life; to use, evade beak and claw,

starfish, barnacle, duck, and mussel;

to be one of the last in the last

bucket of survivors, like the fattened

oysters we grew so fond of

gutting and slurping in our late

middle age when every

living thing beguiles, teems.


Before crypto, before capital and IRAs, money

rocked solid in our pockets, jing-jangled

through warm fingers against cotton:

quarters, nickels never dulling,

rubbed to shine at split and spill.

I’m still nostalgic for those days, before debt,

when love was free, and cash was bread.

We were hungry, strummed for dough,

and o—every night a payday.

Once when the lake by your shack froze over,

I slipped out, walked on water, fancied futures—

rob a bank, pole dance, ice fish for a living.

I’d plenty of time then to be myself

or grow into someone else, and ardor enough

to relish your cheap red wine.


Mary Beth Hines’s debut poetry collection, Winter at a Summer House, was recently published by Kelsay Books. Her most recent poetry, short fiction, and nonfiction appear or will soon appear in Slant, Tar River, The Inflectionist Review, The MacGuffin, Valparaiso, SWWIM, and elsewhere. Her short fiction was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Visit her at


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