War poem

  . . .  In the mess hall at Camp Righteous, Sergeant Mallard limps while he stirs the pot. He stirs the pot, singing songs from the swampland; it’s so hot so hot, Sergeant Mallard is stirring the pot.   . . .  That, and the phone calls home, would be their basic training . . .  

Meanwhile, in the dining room at Tomorrowland a cool young lady sips a refreshing iced mint tea, light as a hummingbird, airy as meringue and a young man looks her over and raises his hand in a toast, a toast to all that is light and beautiful before I go to get my ass shot off he thinks but does not say, not exactly not exactly, but his lust and her mystery are woven together.

This is a courtship song that sounds more like a dirge, like an inevitability, like a one-legged boy coming home or a two-year-old with the crystal blue eyes of her dead mother, and the internal hemorrhaging that is pushing those marching orders closer to closer to closer. 

Soldiers march, lovers roll in the grass, roll in the sheets, covered in oil, covered in sweet disguise, a double-scoop of miracle, a double-take, a double shot. But no work no worry, this soldier is a girl, this soldier is a woman, this soldier is beautiful as a Japanese lily, sweet as sugar cookie and she is raising her hand in a toast a toast to the beautiful young man and they are making plans together, making a list on a napkin of places they will go and things they will see before the slow roll down-hill, before the ocean crosses over them, before the last heart-throb stops. 

The last heart-throb stops. The returned has returned alone and lives with his Howdy-Doody face pulling down and he is sad – not sad, exactly – he is lackluster, he needs something to bring his face back, a pickle-juice martini, a deep-fried prickly pear pie, he needs something bigger than life, bigger than death, bigger than those monsoons he heard about while he was over there, where sand was deeper than ocean.  

This convoluted mess, he hears himself say to someone, some wicked commandant from an old movie that he watched before he was the self he is now. This convoluted mess, he says to someone else and he finds himself having this argument over and over again with this dragon-breath blowhard giant head floating in a cumulus billow of tainted green cloud over his head in his dreams every night and then walking walking toward that girl that girl what was her name the one who raised her hand and wiped the sweat off his shoulder and laughed and bit the palm of his hand and who he might have died for if it was a choice he could have made, but it was not his to make.

And part of him is still a nine-year-old boy who imagines he can double-back on time and put his body and hers into the transmogrifier and then they will shoot through and out into that blue water, but the man he now is instead takes his liberation from everything that was ever liquid and tidal in his body and turns it to salt. He turns it to salt and stays with it, licking that pain, for almost two years.  

And after that, two years more of silence, like he’s alone in a movie theatre, and the only thing in the room is the dust dancing silently in the light on its way to the screen. His skin, his bones, his eyes, his knees, his belly, all sitting waiting for the reel to begin again.

4 Responses to “War poem”

  1. 1 chairgrrl April 27, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    More than poetry, this sings–melodic, hypnotizing, immersive. I love the writing in this and every other story/poem/thought I’ve read since 1 pm today.

    Congrats my friend…and thank you.

  2. 2 Teresa April 27, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Thank you Madame Chairgrrl – I just re-read it myself and cried (is that ridiculous?). I hope you are feeling some better – L told me you’ve been ill – are you up to writing? Join me in a little writing practice, via Red Ravine or TFT?

  3. 3 chairgrrl June 9, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Ahh..writing. The gauntlet of all who strive to get the tumblin thoughts out of their heads onto clean white paper..or screen as it were. Just to have the opportunity to write for someone besides myself. I miss my news job so much.

    I’ve written a few things for Mother Jones for a job…still haven’t heard. Working on my website–revamp–and updating for writing gigs and a novel I want to finish…someday.

    Most of what I’ve read on this site is so way above the drivel I’ve been paid for. Yours is so…dynamic, bendable,on-target. I kneel at the feet of the caliber of writers here.

    let’s keep in touch and bounce some things on the ceiling we keep crashing into.. 😉

  4. 4 Teresa June 9, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Wish you could join us — by speaker phone or live on-line? for writing practice. There will be people coming by this evening, if you are up for it. Or in person, if you are mobile?

    I’ve been thinking about the Sun magazine for some of my contemplative pieces. I struggle to submit. Or maybe it’s just laziness.

    Let me know if you want to try out a little live blog-writing with me.

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