It is a simple two pronged pin,
steel, a circle around the letter U.S.
It has sat in my jewelry box since the day
I clutched the DD-214, hung up
the two or three uniform items
I didn’t turn over to Goodwill,
and filed the paperwork with the VA.
Every month, when the VA Disability
check came in, I’d glance at the pin
and remember the heat of Lackland,
the sound of the planes when I
was out on the line delivering
a manifest to the pilots, Ray-Ban
aviator glasses, dirt cheap at the BX.
I never agreed with the war, had
no idea why we were in the paddies,
but the U.S. was us and I owed
a duty to us and served.
I don’t know quite when it happened,
but I look at the pin now,
and wonder to whom I
could send it for it now has
no meaning, and if possible
I’d really like those two years back,
for I no longer feel a part of US.
The shadow of the balloon
along the water’s edge
and onto the beach,
touches the dune
as the disk of the sun
drowns in the sea.
First appeared in Beachfire Gathering, 1999
The sun is preparing
still another departure.
He moves with a ponderousness
that you wouldn’t expect of him,
he who should be all passion
consuming the sky, painting clouds.
We expect his return by morning,
he has never yet disappointed
but Luna, lingering at the horizon,
a diva making her slow entry,
shines fully as if saying
tonight you won’t miss him —
the day may be short, but I
will make the long night bright
and mine is one you need
not look away from.
He always wanted to take
the scenic route home, it
didn’t matter if it took longer,
he probably preferred that
and he rarely commented on the scenery.
It was more that he didn’t want
to get where they were going
and the scenic route was guaranteed
to take longer and with luck
they’d get lost once or twice along the way.
He’d be fine when he got there,
it was about the arriving, and the leaving
both of which were abrupt, and abruption
carried with it the fear he would
never again find the peace of place.
Like the Anasazi’s sudden
departure from his cliff dwelling
I too snuck away, with hardly
any trace from a life no longer
in clear recollection, only faint
images survive, of hours
in the City Lights Bookstore
reading Corso, Ferlinghetti
and Ginsberg, then buying
the slim volume “Gasoline”
not because it was my
greatest desire, but its price.
Now the worn volume sits nestled
between Wilbur and Amichai,
a fond memory, like an afternoon
in the park in Salt Lake City
the tarot spread out before me
whispering their secrets
for the slip of blotter,
the small blue stain
bringing an evening
of color and touch
and that momentary fear
that nothing would again be
as I knew it to be.
The Anasazi knew
the arrow of time had flown,
had passed the four corners
where I lay in the street
another senseless victim
of a senseless war, while Karl
held the placard
until the police urged us
to move along, and offered
the assistance we
were sworn to reject.
Now the corners seem
older, more tired of the life
that treads on them daily,
on my path to the Federal Courthouse
to argue a motion
where once we spilled
the red paint
the blood of our generation.
Now there is a wall
with their names,
a permanent monument
while we, like our Anasazi
but faint memories.
First Appeared in Ellipsis Literature and Art, Issue 35, 1999.
It was sunrise, he was on the banks
of the river, and he knew, in that moment
that he would remember the scene, if not
the name of the river, or where
on its banks he was, that was
of no consequence at all, only the beauty.
When asked about it, he would say
that it was an obscene beauty, although
he knew people would question how
anything obscene could be beautiful
and anything truly beautiful could be obscene.
He could not hope to explain this,
but it was simply obscenely beautiful,
if only for the few moments it took
the sun to further erupt from the river.
When he would describe it, and they
would engage in a nervous twitter
he would laugh, not a giggle, but
the deep, oblivious laugh of the child.
They come to her in the dark
the voices whisper, she hears them
from behind half lidded eyes
they sound like the children
that once ran across the open field
chasing the ball, a too slow bird
a mortar shell whose fall
outpaced them all, left them
scattered, shattered, marked
by simple wooden crosses
that were taken for heat.
She strains to answer them
the words thick on her tongue
clogging her mouth
like a gas soaked rag
stuck into the thin neck
of a bottle, lit, they explode
inside her mind, the shrapnel
tearing at her eyes
red, only red, the sky
seems aflame yet the sun
has long since set
behind the smoke of the fires.
They hover around her
gently touching her cheek
like a demented butterfly
seeking nectar long dry
she caresses the thick scar
were her breast once stood
proudly, but there is no feeling
only numbness of too many bodies
strewn on tables, across chairs
which are broken to feed the flames
which dance away into the snowy night.
She can see their masks
hiding sneering lips
spitting vitriol for what once was
she curses them, faceless
her eyes pressed shut
by their tiny fingers, kneading
the soft dough, pulling it
taught, letting it snap back
released by the sated mouth
of the devil child who runs
laughing up the hill
chasing a dragonfly
into the dawn.
First Appeared in Arnazella, 2000.
The butterflies came in the night
floating through the barracks window,
mainly monarchs, orange and black
but the occasional yellow, with
more gossamer wings, and the odd white
with small green patches, one to a wing.
There is a corner in my footlocker
that is mine, where I can hide
the tattered book of poems.
A true poet is unafraid to write
an ode in blood, if the situation requires
drawn from her vein
by a needle or the baton
of the security force.
In the river downtown the cup
floats along, carried on the current
into which I cast my dreams
when they no longer serve any purpose.
I can easily aim the rifle
at the silhouette and ease back
on the trigger, but would the child’s skull
explode with the impact of the round
or merely cave inward, collapsing?
I can look into the mirror
in the morning, before first light
and see the shine on my head.
The cancer is advancing, growing
until I no longer have control
and merely respond to its commands
in carefully spit-shined boots
as though anyone would give a damn
waist deep in the fetid water
of the rice paddies.
The heat is unbearable
and you sweat at the thought of motion.
You, forced march from your dreams,
and the butterflies disappear
into the exhausting night.
First Appeared in Blind Man’s Rainbow, Vol. 4, No. 3, February-March, 1993.
There are a group of them
who stare at the sky
knowing it is coming
launched on its course
at the beginning of time
which has no beginning.
Some say it will be soon
others are less certain when
but all accept without question
its inevitability, and wonder
what will remain in its
aftermath, seas evaporated,
continents blotted, it is easy
I tell them, there will be
a freaking big mess
for the roaches to clean up.
First Appeared in Pandaloon, 1996.
There is something gentle about her,
a softness, as though she arrived
on a gentle breeze, was present before you
felt her on the back of your neck, a smile
that cast your shadow on the snowy walk.
She was often like this, as though knowing
she might be an antidote to the harshness
of winter, and the losses that piled up
as time eroded our lives.
We were never sure of what we should say,
and so often opted for silence, but she
seem to welcome that too, as though it
marked a change from something
we would never fully understand.
We never knew when we might see her,
auburn coat dappled by the sun
but we welcomed the doe, and she us,
and that was always sufficient.