Ilyse Kusnetz

My Father in the Coast Guard, 1946

New at sea,
laboring with
block and tackle,
he and his crew are
loading ammunition
onto the Tampa
a 240-foot cutter,
when the sheave
breaks, and crates
of 3”/.50 caliber
bullets begin
to plummet toward
the men below.
All let go of the rope
except my father.
He holds to that line
as he’d later hold
to all of us –
my mother, my brothers,
my sister and me,
until the skin peels
from his palms,
and the rope
slices through to bone.




“My Father in the Coast Guard, 1946” first appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Volume 17, Number 1, Winter/Spring 2012.