Minnesota, May 1945
DMZ, September 1967
In Tokyo our gallant boys
dance rock-and-roll, squint eyes
wary at standing easy. They leer and reel
on a springboard tip and then
jackknife toward the electronic noise . . .
And Charley, when Time Inc. said he said
the President had his head
wedged about Vietnam
burning for honor or—who knows?
the Action he had said—
married the Marines.
He showered for vows on those
who took his word who taught him
shoot it out and shout “Yes Sir Yes Sir!”
and sent him out like napalm
obedient to any itchy finger.
I hope the fields of Minnesota gave perspective
when he moved out
as to the starting line
on the command, survive, survive.
. . . our juiced doughboys feel their girls.
did I tell you
when we met
last and it
“after the leeches and the food”
on a break
in the rain
was already up with you, Charley?
Mouthing the big cigar
like a gangster at the wheel . . .
cigarette between thumb and finger
the way we all even in junior high
learned not to
your men watching in wonder
him tasting the strange
(turned officer so young)
that smoke: and all was dark
except what sparks
he scattered there, stubbing it out
What could we do for you
you hugging your knees
who taught you
to raise your voice?
No more the wide Mankato pearled with ice
under blue January sky
your arm around the shoulder of the friend who ran faster
no more the long hours pad in hand composing
reasons for your belief
a belief in fathers has no reason
no more the simple passion of going first
your hatless straightness, the struggle, the deep worry,
the dark Africa of being alive in a country
run by chiefs without tribes
no more of all that, only your
brief beauty in many hearts
in a time when fathers bury their sons, and you
surrounded, cut down
in a war you were fated never to see,
blinded by love for all men.