Fifty years now and they come at me, from Chicago,
Crown Point, Indiana, by phone from Las Vegas,
from a hill outside Pittsburgh or Bethlehem, PA.
I tell them how it happened, long after parting, one
night when I was in a bar, thinking of them all.
all I can smell is the gunpowder
on you sharper than booze.
You wear your clothes
with a touch of muzzle flash.
Is it a story you want…?
Listen to the years ago,
to the no shooting,
to the no rout,
to the just dying.
The day stank,
it wore scabs, had odors
to choke tissues and burn
secret laminations of the lungs.
Rain festered in soot clouds,
rose in the Pacific
or the Sea of Japan,
dumped down on us,
came up out of yellow clay
like a sore letting out.
The air must have been
full of bats, of spider weavings;
it was lonely as the lobo,
yet a jungle of minds
filled it with thought leaves
shining with black onyx.
Who needs doctors at dying…?
Prayers sew wounds, piece heads,
hearts, hands together, when blood
and clay strike the same irrevocable
vein, arterial mush; when God
is the earth and clay, silence,
the animal taker leaning to grasp.
listen you heroes in mirrors
only you see into, we through,
it isn’t the killing, it’s the dying
must be felt, associated,
even if it stinks.
Blood freezes in hot days
of dying, is icicle inside movement
of trickery less than glacier’s,
where a man crawls to his maker
up his own veins, is touched,
feels the firebrand burn in the cold.
Where are the shade trees, cool drinks…?
Once I froze in the confessional
against the fire.
He was a Spick,
they said, washed his skin
too much, wanted to sandpaper it white,
be us, be another man.
But we wagered ourselves
to get him out of a minefield
live as breathing, comrade shot
down in the clay in the rain
in the time of bright eyes rolling
with thunder’s fear.
Was it him we carried, or the stone
of his monument…?
Tons he was of responsibility,
one of us despite the Spick name,
man being borne to die.
God is everywhere,
the catechism says, my son says,
now, years later. It was once
a divinity we carried on the poles,
with his balls gone pistonless,
no more a god to his woman.
His image rolled red on the canvas,
burned through the handles of the litter
as secret as electricity; Spick shooting
himself into us, Godhead shooting signs
up shafts of wood.
on sticks and canvas
is frightening. We felt this.
Jesus! we screamed,
have You let go of this god…?
Do You fill him up making him burn
our hands? He wanders now for times,
rolling himself together,
womanless, childless, a journey
in dark trees, among leaves,
in jungles, to get near You.
God seeking God
at the intercept of shrapnel,
the tearing down and lifting up
by our hands, God
in the cement of death.
it’s the dying not the killing
you must speak of. This day
is theirs, not ours, belongs
to the gods of the dead,
of the Spick we carried to his dying
and all his brothers, none of them
here among us.
one to the Spick and grave’s companions,
jungle flights they are in
to match their god with God.
And think, gunmen,
who among us have the longest journey
among leaves, in darkness,
through the spiders of trees,
--Tom Sheehan, 31st Regt., 7th Div., Korea 1951-52
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Check out Tom Sheehan’s instalments novel, An Accountable Death
, in the Regular Features section, and several of his short stories in the fiction archives. Tom was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His work has recently been, or will shortly be, published in the following magazines, among many others: The Paumanok Review, Nefarious, Carnelian, Melange, Drunk Duck, Eclectica, Clackamas Literary Review, Dakota House, and Samsara. Tom’s novel, Vigilantes East
, is due shortly in paper edition: 3 AM will let you know exactly when!