Kilroy Was Here

Shannon Cuthbert

During World War II,
GIs smeared it in chalk on the sides of tanks.
It emerged like a fungus lining walls
In the shelled husks of towns they passed through,
Farms where they crouched a lifetime,
Chewing gum and staring at sky.
It even popped up in Stalin’s bathroom,
Setting conspiracy theorists aflame.
What did it mean that Kilroy Was Here?
That strange cartoon, an early meme
Sprawling its way through the Western Front.
Anonymous bald man,
His bulbous nose draped over a wall
Like a novelty lamp to light their way. 
Was he a code? Graffiti? A joke? 
In our games of tic-tac-toe and hangman,
Grandpa drew him over and over.
Never knew why, never thought to ask.
I imagine him young,
A half-hearted artist, a whiz with words,
Inventing new ways to thread laughter 
Through the parched throats, linked arms
Of army brothers.
In dreams we don’t speak anymore,
Only pass a pencil back and forth.
Together we lie on a floor
And watch a face take shape on the ceiling.
Always, chalk coats my tongue,
Coats the bare stomach of a sky
I’ve stolen to be here,
A million miles from home.


About the Author

Shannon Cuthbert is a writer and artist living in Brooklyn. Her poems have appeared in Plum Tree Tavern, Bangor Literary Review, and The Oddville Press, among others. Her work is forthcoming in New Feathers Anthology, Hamilton Stone Review, Déraciné Magazine, and Ink Sweat and Tears, among others.