In 1917, my father's naval training completed he received his ensign's commission

and shortly thereafter sailed as a signal officer on a troopship to Europe

Still in the wrong-colored uniform

Among deckloads of backpacking, leg-putteed doughboys.

But then, mysteriously, or perhaps not at all mysteriously,

His rank having been conferred by an institution that wasn't Annapolis,

He was assigned to land duty in the trenches

as a naval observer of ground-war communications.

It is true, communication was his specialty

as it has been the specialty of all men in my family

at least since my grandfather came to America in 1887

and took up the printer's trade.