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Burning My Draft Card, 1996


ISSUE:  Summer 1998
Before I strike a match to this flimsy paper

I meant to burn back in the winter of 73
but stuck in Paradise as a bookmark
and lost until this morning when it fell out,

I’d like to say: God bless that “mike mcfee,”
his artsy lower-case fountain-pen cursive
swirling across the bottom of this draft card.

God bless his young Blue eyes before glasses,
his once-Brown hair, yearning for the shoulders,
his impossibly light weight of 152 pounds.

God bless Random Sequence Number 095,
which inspired him to apply for C.O. status
and write a pious Statement for the local board.

God bless that committee, which voted him 1—0
since the draft and war were ending anyway,
not because he’d won them over to pacifism.

God bless the schoolmarm hand of Doris S. Rice,
whose Authorized Signature on SSS Form 7
made his conscientious objection legal.

God bless his parents, who made all this possible,
especially his father, the World War II veteran,
who couldn’t believe it: a draft-dodging son.

God bless his Date of Birth (unlucky numbers)
and indelible purple Date of Classification
and still unfilled-in Date of Expiration.

God bless that other self, 31—11—54—509,
who came into being December 4th, 1973,
with the thump of a Selective Service stamp.

God bless the last of those bureaucratic words
darkening the back of every draftee’s card:
“You may request an appeal before the President.”

God bless America, where any young idealist
might borrow a suit and hitchhike to Washington
and plead his conscience before Richard Nixon.

And God bless that official Great Seal eagle,
no bigger than a thumbprint, lifting his arrows
in triumph or in protest as the flames begin

inducting this paper into the army of ashes.

Michael McFee

It never stops flashing on my car’s clock,
this heartbeat punctuation between hour and minute:

this twin star pulsing in the local sky,
its snakebite part of a minor constellation’s myth:

this luckiest domino, whose dot-dot code
keeps spelling out light against the deepest darkness:

this cross-section of a blinking equal sign,
its lines parallel to infinity, if only I could see that far.

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