Table of |
Freshman year, Pennsylvania Military College (1963)
I coldcock him in the mouth,
send his choppers flying,
stomp his chest until black bile
bubbles out of his ears and nostrils.
No, I didn’t do this. But I wanted to,
one morning, after an upperclassman,
in front of a crowd of students,
twists my name into female genitalia,
calls my mom a floozy, restricts me
to my room for a week, all because
he doesn’t like the curvature
of my lower lip when I chant
Sir, good morning, Sir!
“Hey, is it raining?”
“How should I know? Stick your finger out the window.”
“Don’t be fresh; it looks dark.”
“It could just be cloudy.”
“You think it’s gonna come down?“
“Do I look like the Weather Lady?”
“What does the radio say?”
“Possibility of showers.”
“They always say that.“
“What do you want from me?”
“Maybe if I bring a small umby, it’ll act like a cross.”
“It’ll keep away rain like a cross keeps away the vampires.”
“Why don’t you take a wooden stake and hammer while you’re at it.”
Pennsylvania Military College, 1964
You give away your last cigarette to a classmate, your last bite
of cheesesteak hoagie to a grubbing officer. You’re the first
to volunteer to GI the latrine, offer your help in the unmanly arts
of sewing on a button, ironing a pair of trousers. We call you Tool.
We smear toothpaste on your brass and spit-shines, short-sheet your bed
so your feet only make it midway down the mattress, fill your pillow
with shaving cream. We line up at the window when your girl parks
behind our barracks and you lock yourself in her Nash Rambler for hours.
Joke about the fogged glass, how you don’t know what hole to stick it in.
We implement the principles of war: objective, offensive, surprise; deploy
a commando team with cameras. Four cadets in camouflage fatigues
circle the Rambler; the explosion of light, pumped fists, pats on the back.
Long after “Taps,” we lay with our eyes closed, sleep eluding us, thinking of you
and your girl, blinded by the flashes, hugging each other, tighter and tighter.
Chester, PA, 1972
First the Ford plant
then the steel mills,
the metal factories,
A year after Pennsylvania
Military College’s colors
and the cadet corps
the 48-year-old billboard,
with letters glowing
like a blast furnace:
WHAT CHESTER MAKES
had its plug pulled,
girders hauled off
to the scrapyard.