Two Contemporary Poets

Spring, 2004

Robert Bohm


His hand's cupped on his shirtfront as if still trying

to scoop the innards back into
the belly hole. But the truth, once
out, isn't shoved easily into its box again.
Flies buzz around the body. The stink
from his shit-fouled fatigues makes us back up. Dogtags
dangle, medallions on the neck
of nonexistence, above a gully. Further off, the paddies'
senseless green stretches toward the horizon
in the eyes of the Buddhist monk walking toward us.
The dead corporal's belly hole, dark
as a myna bird on a branch. The words
the bird learns to say are nothing we haven't
heard before: the endless yakking
of dumb or desperate men. Artillery
thunders a half klick away and the ground
shakes. Someone runs like a wide
receiver faking out the safety. With one
shot Schmidt takes out the monk. I can see,
beyond where the hen disappears into tall grass,
Bonnie punching in at the transistor plant
on Rt. 110 back home. Later, one after the other,
we set huts on fire.
Finally, only
a sniper's bullet or a tripwire away,
tranquility's within reach.