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  • Goldsboro Narratives
  • Forrest Hamer (bio)

Goldsboro narrative #4
My father’s Viet Nam tour near over

The young dead soldier was younger than they thought. The 14-year-old passed himself as seventeen, forged a father’s signature. In the army no more than months, he was killed early the week before a cease-fire. The boy was someone-I somewhat-knew’s older brother and someone-my-mother- had-taught’s son, and, lying in the standard Army casket, an American flag draped over the unopened half, the boy didn’t look like anyone anybody would know—a big kid his dark skin peached pale, lips pouted. I was sure I hadn’t recognized him.

    When kids older than us closed down one campus after another, I thought they’d close all colleges down, and there would be no place for me when it was my time. It didn’t seem fair.

     Capt. Howell’s wife answered the door one day, and two men in military dress asked to come in. She had no choice, I suppose, but once they came into her living room, she no longer had a husband, and the three boys and the girl no longer [End Page 107] had their father. So this is howit happens, I thought: two men come to your house in the middle of the day, ringing a bell or rapping on the door. And, afterwards, there’s nothing left to look forward to.

Goldsboro narrative #7

Time was a boy, specially a black boy, need to be whipped by his kin, teach him not to act up, get hisself killt. Folks did this cause they loved them boys. The man laughs. And boys would do what all they could to get out of them whippings, play like they was getting tore up, some play like they was going to die. My grandmama the first one that whipped me, and she made me go get my own switches. If I come back to her with a switch too small, she make me go right back and get a big one. And she whipped me for that, too. He laughs. I loved that woman, though. Sho did.

Goldsboro narrative #28

When folks caught on to what was happening between Rev. Johnson and Sister Edna, the grown-ups went back to speaking in front of children as if we couldn’t spell. It was easy to figure out, though: Rev. Johnson’s wife didn’t get happy; and, after service, she wouldn’t shake hands with Sister Edna or any of her kin. And Sister Edna’s husband, Mr. Sam, who never came to church, began waiting in the parking lot to drive his wife home. [End Page 108] Now the age Rev. Johnson was then, I doubt he was concerned with being forgiven. But when I was 12 and kept on falling from available grace, I began dismissing him and mostly all of what he said he meant. I went witnessing instead to Mr. Sam, his truck idling outside the paned windows, him dressed in overalls and a new straw hat.

Forrest Hamer

Forrest Hamer is a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, and a practicing psychologist in Oakland, California. Call & Response (1995) is his first collection of poems.


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pp. 107-109
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