SOLDIERS – JOHN GREY

SOLDIERS

An allusive whisper,

down on all fours,

scented with spice,

at the edge of the bed.

In a thick-walled and narrow windowed house,

a stucco fortress

out of Mizner.

Fronds of light. Camera. Palm trees.

A series of flickers.

Dancing on the lawn

with imaginary water from a sprinkler system.

My eyes are dull yellow like flint.

My skin is loose and quilted.

Body slope-shouldered.

And then (grinning emptily

at a neon tube),

face as blank as it is heavy –

I look at a photograph of my ex –

she’s a dentist informing me,

I need all my teeth pulled

or a doctor with cancer on his brain

and in mine.

There’s a long charcoal-gray topcoat

hanging on the rack.

It could be a stranger in the house.

My nerves jump like toads

before quieting down again.

With the tips of my shoe,

I wipe away paradise.

A swish of a hand

leaves a crab to its troubles.

Then I have to go and touch my brow.

It feels like crumpled paper.

And the top of my head is all bone,

keeps all thoughts in darkness.

Try to use up the remaining rifle fire

left over from the war.

Toss the hand grenade.

Lay out my buddy’s corpse like a welcome mat.

A meager coffin.

A grasping desert.

Toxic fog.

Something inviolate tossed out in the trash.

Roll call. Present, sir

though convoluted.

Ready to fire. Willing to die.

I can’t say no to myself.

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