Two Contemporary Poets
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.