Arms and Lights and Flags

Arms and Lights and Flags

By:  Garland Davis


My grandfather could talk with his arms and lights and flags.

I asked him why.

He said it was the sailor’s way through time.

I begged him to teach me how.

I worked so hard at school to learn.

And the letters and words finally came.

Now I too can talk with my arms.

It makes him laugh, easy in himself.

That is what grandsons do.

It would be many years before I found his maps and log books.

Mildewed and stained.  Strange names and places.

Coral Sea, Midway, Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Okinawa.

The final log entry, “War over; Surrender, Tokyo bay; Going home.”



I would go to the Navy, as my grandfather did,

I would talk with my arms and lights and flags.

I would be as my grandfather, visit strange places with strange names.



Electronic waves have made the ability to talk with one’s arms obsolete.

Now I talk with the radio and plot courses and names on an electric map.

There is no longer the need to talk with arms and lights and flags.

I imagine my grandfather’s spirit standing alone on the signal bridge.

Semaphore flags clutched in his hand.

Tears slowly running from his eyes.


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A native of North Carolina, Garland Davis has lived in Hawaii since 1987. He always had a penchant for writing but did not seriously pursue it until recently. He is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University, where he majored in Business Management. Garland is a thirty-year Navy retiree and service-connected Disabled Veteran.




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