He used to laugh
about the time he spent locked up
and he really did mean
is what they called it
but what he called it was
“I mean it’s cushy by comparison”
was exactly the phrase he used.
If you asked him straight up
“Cushy compared with what?”
it’d make him laugh.
Sometimes he’d laugh and just let it go,
and sometimes he’d tell you the story.
they feared him, I guess,
thought he’d jeopardize
I mean he’d already publicly declared it
and he’d called it a flat out lie to boot.
Hell, he even sent himself AWOL to say so louder
and then, they said, had –
and this is the actual phrase that they used –
“he had the audacity” –
yep, that’s what they said –
“to try to return on his own”
just so he could keep on talking.
And that’s when they sent him to solitary
in the best way they knew how.
he was in the Army
on a Naval base
and the Army didn’t have a brig there.
the Navy didn’t want him in their brig
because guys in the Navy,
except for the SEALs,
tend to be pretty damn liberal
and this was a time
in the war
and the world
when he might make his brig-mates his converts.
So the brig-less Army
emptied a whole wing of a barracks
and locked him in there alone.
And that’s where he got the word “cushy”.
I mean, he was on the top floor
with a view of the water
and all of his meals
they confiscated the book he was reading
The Letters of James Agee to Father Flye
turned out to be seditious.
But other than that they left him alone
“And it doesn’t get,” he liked to say,
“a whole lot more cushy than that.”
But then, in a weird way, it did.
even when you’re in solitary
you still have to do forced labor
and the job they gave him was dandy.
He never knew why
but twice a week
all of the base’s dirty sheets
were hauled across 92,848 feet
of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel
to wherever they did the laundry.
his solitary forced labor,
was to lie spread-eagle
across the tarp
that covered the laundry
to keep it from blowing away.
other guys who weren’t being punished
would load up the truck
and then spread the tarp
and he’d climb up and lie down.
The view was great –
endless miles of sky and surf
just closeup tile and electric lights
maybe five feet overhead.
The breeze was cool on the days with no rain
and the only hard part
was at the northern end
where he’d climb down and sit under a tree
while other unpunished guys
did the unloading and loading.
“Like I said,” he’d say, “it was cushy,
provided, of course,
you learned not to mind
the weapons the MPs pointed at you
to keep you from running away.”