By John Clifford
They should never have drafted
his tongue into the army.
We others left our civil selves behind,
muffled our home-hearts with
wads of soldier profanity. Nowhere
could he escape. He said:
"Amplify the sound of land crabs
and I hear a flat john boat scraping
the shore of a gravel-bed stream."
Civilian-soldiers grew schizoid
when he talked in the jungle night.
"You're driving on a hot day
in a car of oven-metal. Then the rain
comes rolling down the highway,
pushing that first cool draught of air,
and it has that wet-asphalt smell
cold water brings out of hot pavement."
He bought his packet yesterday-
zapped, they said, in mid-sentence.
A few may have sighed relief.
Not I - though he had affected me.
Lying on the swampy ground, I line
my rifle-sights on a thin figure
crawling by a rice field. My senses
should be focused on his death,
but my memory plays tricks
and I hear that silenced voice:
"As a child I killed a tree
in a neighbor's woods.
And I never see it, white
among the old ones dark and living,
that I am not reproached."