At the Vietnam Memorial

By George Bilgere b. 1951 George Bilgere
The last time I saw Paul Castle
it was printed in gold on the wall
above the showers in the boys’
locker room, next to the school
record for the mile. I don’t recall
his time, but the year was 1968
and I can look across the infield
of memory to see him on the track,
legs flashing, body bending slightly
beyond the pack of runners at his back.

He couldn’t spare a word for me,
two years younger, junior varsity,
and hardly worth the waste of breath.
He owned the hallways, a cool blonde
at his side, and aimed his interests
further down the line than we could guess.

Now, reading the name again,
I see us standing in the showers,
naked kids beneath his larger,
comprehensive force—the ones who trail
obscurely, in the wake of the swift,
like my shadow on this gleaming wall.

George Bilgere, “At the Vietnam Memorial” from Big Bang. Copyright © 1999 by George Bilgere. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Beech Press, www.copperbeechpress.com.

Source: Poetry (June 1995).

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This poem originally appeared in the June 1995 issue of Poetry magazine

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June 1995
 George  Bilgere

Biography

George Bilgere has published six collections of poetry, including Imperial (2014); The White Museum (2010), which was awarded the Autumn House Poetry Prize; Haywire (2006), which on the May Swenson Poetry Award; and The Good Kiss (2002), which was selected by Billy Collins to win the University of Akron Poetry Award. He has won numerous awards, including the Midland Authors Award and a Pushcart Prize. Bilgere has received grants . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT War & Conflict, Youth, Social Commentaries, Living, Sorrow & Grieving, Death

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

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