The Day the Word Began
It’s odd what you can hear from SEALs
especially if they think you like ‘em
in the spring of nineteen hundred and sixty seven,
think you and your friends all liked them,
in part because you were musicians
and might be as crazy as them.
who else but musicians who liked them
would sneak out
in the middle of the night
to play hot licks in the fog
while SEALboys –
boys who’d been tossed off boats
a mile or two beyond the breakers
and told to swim home on their own –
their bedraggled asses
out of the tide-turning sea?
“Training” they called it.
And they were grateful for the music.
“America’s professionally amoral” you and your friends called them,
but never to their faces.
You were way too polite for that and,
their existence made you
Yep, it’s odd what you could hear at the USO
in the spring of ‘67,
especially if you’d all been doin’ rowdy drinkin’
with a little weed sucked in to boot,
just for example,
you might hear
that the Gulf of Tonkin
was a lie and lotsa people knew it,
because it really happened,
the one across the table,
he just got
a fresh imported package
from a friend and
“See this here?
This here’s an ear.
It’s Charlie’s ear, but that VC won’t miss it.
My friend took good care a’that.”
And it’s odd what you think
when the stars come out above the beach
in April of ‘67,
How many ears is too many?
What can I do to stop it – I mean short,
of standing up to the SEAL
our most elite
(Not to mention all his friends are in the bar
and they don’t like it when you cross ’em,
not even if you’re a musician.)
late in April,
way late in April of ‘67,
you spit on your shoes,
put on your best dress uni,
leave without leave,
and reenter the world you call “real”
to visit a girl.
You ask her
what a spit-shined
to call out the lies
and stop the war
so you can save the lives of your friends
start sending home ears.
And when your mother calls
to see if “that’s where you’re hiding”,
it’s the first time you hear the word
Wow—I couldn’t stop reading this poem. The way it becomes intensely personal at the end is a strong closing flourish. Bravo