portion of the artwork for Laura McCullough's poem

And Some Join the Military
Laura McCullough

As a way out.
As a way into poetry.            This is Brian …

The dog has stopped chewing.
          The sun is going down.
                    The boy is singing small incoherent boy songs.

We all go to the window to see the big red bullet in the sky
          going down, going into this earth, killing the day.

Brian says here, here is where the world ends,
          carries the dead arm, alive with image,
          not in a bag, but in his arms like a baby
          he will someday have, like the father
          who has survived fifteen years of shaking
          recollection of his son’s near death in that bombing—
          oh, it doesn’t matter which one; if you’ve forgotten,
          there is sure to be another one, or a shooting,
          and the finger like a cocked comma, a lone quotation,
                    This! This! This!
          reporting over and over, the soldier poet recalls,
          in the open wound the sun’s breath on his lover’s neck is,
          that clavicle a place to build a tent and crawl inside,

                  Howling sand           vegetable          swamp
                  humidless here                pea green air there
                  and air traffic stopped today
                  due to volcanic ash!
                  Yesterday last week the week before
                  and before, it was a body in the wheel well,
                  and how silly we think! Ash circling the globe,
                  and the cruises cancelled because the flights
                  with the tourists couldn’t arrive, and tonight

at that event at the high school in that named town in South Dakota—
          whisper it and it sounds like every high school
          in this, my my my country of America—
          there is a boy finding his way out of something
          in the small, open faced grin of another boy
          in uniform who scored high marks in people skills,
          in his ability to convince, cajole, get close to, and close the deal.
          He doesn’t carry a gun, he doesn’t have to,
          and it might seem cheap if I say he does just as much damage
          when he promises the other boys, and sometimes girls,
          that they they they will carry a gun,
                  a big, fucking, blaster, of a fucking amazing gun
                            that can blow      blow      blow
                  the fucking commies       gooks       roaches       sand fleas
                  krauts-teachers-other-other-other-other muthafuckas away.

And with them,
          the blown seeds already germinated
          in the new recruit’s mind of no-other-way-to-get-out
                  of this town
                  or fucked up family,
                  the alcoholic mother, or the sad, depraved one, or the stupid one,
                  or the father with no job
          (oh, sing again James Wright of the terrible galloping! The suicidally beautiful!),
                  or the incest or the not-smart-enoughs,
                  or the no friggin’ jobs (a thousand people
                           turned out today to apply for a job at the new Appelby’s
                           on Washington Ave. in No Hope, Arizona,
                           a thousand, and each one somebody’s
                           kid or father or mother with a smile and a clean shirt
                           going sweaty and grey in the hot,
                           long line of what-the-fuck-I-bother-for-anyway?).

Read that as I, motherfucker.          I.
          I didn’t get the job.
          I wasn’t good enough.
          I didn’t have the money.
          I got pregnant.
          I got her pregnant.
          I did that awful thing to the kid next door.
          I dreamed of being a hockey player.
          I played the video game all day.
          I played so I wouldn’t cry.
          I burned my arm with the cigarette because I couldn’t.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 30 | Fall 2010