Claire Grey At The Train Station
(Images from World War II)

An image from Hitler's war that stayed with me ---
Coast Guardsmen on the beach with killer dogs I walked
up to and said, "nice doggy," patting them on the head;
glamorous flyer, Robert, and his friends,
brought home by my sisters and I at three in the morning,
"Wake up, Mama!"
She played mandolin, we danced and sang, then she
made waffles, just one of many magical nights with
Mama (every dinner was a party at our house)
I didn't know anything about love,
I was in love with love and the glamour of the uniform
and the good looking Navy pilot, Bob Campbell, whose parents were
circus trapeze artists (Bob did a leap in our old fashioned living room,
startling! Agile as my father.)
After the night at Rudy's Rendezvous, I smiled my Mona Lisa smile
when Bob proposed! And said nothing. What did it mean (I thought later)
to have someone waiting for you?
I was happy to have a drawer full of pilot wings,
I was in love
with men falling in love with me,
(how innocently frivolous are some young girls' hearts.)

In later years, after the experience of caring, even
as one dear friend, Gary, said, "You love your man, Jesse,
more than Bessie Smith ..(loved her man)"
which I knew was a depth of caring
I would not want to have missed in this life,
in the crude words of my own
jazz song, "It was Only Love,"
I wanted, at least once, to experience
the love that says,
"I'll cry for you, die for you,
go to jail, pay the bail,
go to Hell and back again love"
Bessie Smith, yes I sang her version
of St. Louis blues
My son, Joel, called me up from San Francisco in 1978, a young man saying,
"I can't find a good tape of St. Louis Blues,
would you please record it for me," and I did.
Joel smiled, pleased, "You sound like Bessie Jackson."
He knew them all!
His friend, Washington said, "THAT IS BLUES!"

When Joel was five years old and for the first time saw the
town where I had lived as a child, he
said, "And who was in your tummy then?" with a very
special secret smile, wanting to be a part of me
even then when I was a child.

Coquille is still in me, Coos Bay is in me, and
images of World War II
glamorous flyers and promises of love
(in love with love)

Images of World War II,
wild and wonderful gypsy violinist,
glamorous flyer, and other first loves
young boy
holding my face in his hands
rain pouring down, saying goodnight with a
sweet kiss, and
the Prom night and
sitting in the ice cream parlor
listening to Harry James play
Star Dust
It was easy, to glide from romance
to friendship, high school was only
a waiting time for me a time of waiting
for the war to end
for life to begin
books weren't read, nor music studied (it would all just happen naturally,
wouldn't it?
I expected life to come to me
like magic)

But one role I loved:
Piano player - a band called the Down Beats
Ten bucks a night Claire Grey, sweet boy of the Prom
playing trumpet
with Gerald on the slide trombone.

Floating through high school, waiting for the war to end
and life begin.

Some things grow stronger in memory
as if everything is to be lived over in intensity
to be savored, to be understood, to become now, finally real,
yourself, with all the many years, colors flying high, put into
the small body of the girl in Coquille, and Coos Bay
and no longer is the war glamorous, from propaganda and
Sending the boys off to glory with marching bands

My son received a draft notice in the 60's! Vietnam!
he said with a droll humor, walking now with difficulty from
an unexpected and rare crippling disease that struck at eighteen:
"I guess I'll show up at the Draft Board, and see
what they say!"

But without the propaganda and the glamour, and the leg make-up,
slapping it on in the morning, washing it off at night,
and the funny cigarettes (I don't mean Marijuana...
sometimes the best you could do, a nasty dark tobacco
rolled to a cigarette, made in Turkey)
what we see in retrospect is an indomitable spirit
of Americans, during World War II.

I was the little sister my brothers adored,
and they would both be going to war, Johnny first,
a trombone player in a Navy Band; he watched from the deck
of the North Carolina the landing on Iwo Jima;
that great old battleship took more hits than all the rest put together.
When my brother died at a young age, happily married
and playing first trombone in the Waukegan Symphony Orchestra,
they said he died of cancer, but I know he died of war,
and the horror of war. My brother, Jimmy, went to
Bomber Pilot school, then they changed their minds
and he became a Fighter Pilot,
by then the War was over.
Being so close to my brothers I would wonder,
why didn't I have to go to war, if my brothers must go to war.
It didn't seem fair!

Images of World War II
the glamorous Navy Pilot
the dancing, the promises
the romantic music
the singing of old songs
the fever-pitch of living

"I'll be seeing you
in all the old familiar places,"
and perhaps the most poignant image of all.....

Claire Grey at the train station saying goodbye
saying tenderly, goodbye, to his sweetheart,
an image like a single pendant, an old-fashioned cameo of
soft pastels
ephemeral, as through a scrim, delicate vulnerable
parting of a sailor, parting but not leaving,
not really leaving, parting and staying in the cameo
not leaving,
parting, holding tenderly, not leaving, and staying
in the cameo, timeless, and caught like old lace
within an old-fashioned cameo, a single pendant
swinging free in the air, a fragile image, vulnerable
young love, everlasting, always everything
*at one moment, eternal, parting, but not leaving,
and staying in the cameo, timeless, a single pendant
swinging a gentle memory in slow motion, parting
but not leaving, the image of young love
at the train station, waiting, but not leaving,
parting, but staying,
eternal image
of young lovers parting,
one young man going to war
not really leaving, parting but staying
in the cameo.

© Dorothy Jesse Beagle

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