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.