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Finding My Old Battalion

ISSUE:  Spring 1992
What we came here to find
was never ours. After the miles
we’ve traveled, after the years
we’ve dreamed if only we could touch
the wound again, we could be whole,
no small wonder to discover
only a lethal past between us,
what we thought a brotherhood
only a mutual recollection of fear.

Something was lost, but it wasn’t ours,
and if not here, we’d only have lost it
somewhere else. The young always do.
That is why we remember the young
who die too soon to lose
anything but their lives.
That is why we envy them.
They will always believe the world
is simple, and they only die once.

This is not what I intended,
but it won’t stay down: nobody
wants a fool for a lover, a fool
for a father, a foolish friend.
Nobody wants excuses. Still,
there are stars that burn with no light;
there are things, too evil for words,
too evil for silence, always digging.
Even a fool needs a friend.

But only the dead are permanent,
so we’ve come to this place to find—
what? Lost innocence? Our true selves?
What we think we were before we learned
to recognize incoming enemy mortars
in our sleep? What you’ve found is
just how frail I am. Now you know
I can’t be trusted to my buttons.
Grunt to grunt, it’s all that matters.

Never mind particulars. This is just
between the two of us: “Heave ho,
into the lake you go with all
the other alewife scuz and foamy
harbor scum. But isn’t it a pity.”
Yes, a pity. But I’ve long since learned
that losses are the way things are.
And look, I’ve found a village where I once
thought nothing green would ever grow.


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