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Two Contemporary Poets

Spring, 2004

Robert Bohm

Spirit Force

White fairytale steeple. A town where the wheat

speaks in tongues. In the middle of the night

the Angus cattle grow restless. You wake up, moonlight

sticky on the sheets, remembering your last glimpse

of Mary Elders' thigh. That was how he told it, adding,

"Even now, the thought makes me want to grab my cock."

A pacifist, he quit the Big Ten, became a medic.

He had a way with words:

"Life's incubator" for the Perfume River

and "divinity's seat" for the lotus on the pond.

Maybe we didn't know what

he was talking about, but his fullback build

and the tongue-flicking cobra tattooed on his arm

told us don't mock him or else. In the midst

of a firefight, afraid of nothing, he'd stand straight up and stomp

through elephant grass or a bamboo thicket

with only one thing on his mind: pumping

morphine's hints of holiness into one more bod.

"The Lord in the whirlwind

blows His trumpet loud and clear!" he'd prophecy, guiding

a grunt's woozy mind toward The End or resurrection.

"He gives me the creeps. I feel like Jesus is stalking me

through the jungle," Alverez complained.

No one knew what to make of him. Sometimes

men on R&R reported seeing him standing next to a Saigon street vendor

devouring piles of rice pancakes

and noodle fish soup. And one night

in the B45 Bar on Tu Do St. I watched him disappear

with three different whores, one at a time, in about an hour.

"I'm weak but I'm still the Redeemer," he grinned

at Brown minutes after dragging him away

from the right leg the wounded man would never see again.

Then, not waiting for a stretcher, he lifted the hysterical grunt in his arms

and lumbered toward the medevac site while hollering

above the mortars' thunder something in a language no one could understand.