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14 April 2009

corpus christi in wartime

corpus christi in wartime

it was
all things considered
very pleasant

if you left
if you did not like texas
if you did not like your situation
the fbi would find you
in baltimore or pittsburgh
and bring you back
to corpus christi in handcuffs
the army would court-martial you

but it was
all things considered
very pleasant

a cloud
of dread and fear
darkened and chilled us
in broiling summer
in shortsleeve gulf winter

when they came
what would the dense typed Xeroxed orders
would they come?
would they send me?

but often
the gulf
but for this war
sights I would not have seen
tastes smells zappa
and roller derby in san antonio

three hundred miles of dunes southwest
two hundred miles of dunes northeast
islands, sandbars
strange animals
sea creatures

whooping cranes
through fog you could barely see them
but I saw them

snorting grunting javelinas
dad, mom, five kids
we climbed a tree
vicious nearsighted maiming killing things
fear, good reason to fear

but no dread

when they left we climbed down

three dead:
homeowner sliced through
by shattered plate glass
woman drank iodine

five hundred geese
screams and shadows
over eighty
mixed green and khaki
uniforms in morning formation

strengthening sun warmed wings
of monarch butterflies
who had clung by night
to the tan barracks bricks
one butterfly at a time
hundreds flew south to mexico

distracted me
a few hours at a time
every couple of days

the fear the dread
discreetly stood to one side

pot, beer, liquor, acid
burning asthma powder, mushrooms
to push the fear dread away
in an off-base apartment
a shooting gallery
to postpone the shooting gallery

but we always sobered up
and it always came back
in the stomach in the groin
there was a war on

copyright (c) 2009 by Robert Merkin
all rights reserved


Anonymous said...

Whoa. It didn't take you long to come up with that ode to 1970 military life in Corpus Christi. R.

Vleeptron Dude said...

You started it. You got me thinking, remembering.

Our tendencies to want to forget, to wish we could forget as time passes ... I guess I was just thinking that these don't do anybody any good. That's why we're in this mess.

These wars began just past the horizon of crisp memories of Vietnam.