P O E T S ON THE LINE
a continuing anthology
Founded by Andrew Gettler & Linda Lerner
NO. 9 & 10 T H E M I L L E N N I U M I S S U E
Edited by Linda Lerner
W. D. EHRHART
(Alongapo, The Philippines, 1968)
At night in the Seven-Eleven Club,
you watch the sailors dressed in white
fresh from the waters off Vietnam
get fleeced by the hostesses, brown
sensuous girls who dance with the sailors
for drinks containing no alcohol.
The girls can dance all night and never
get drunk, and at closing time the sailors,
who think they're about to get laid, get
shown the door and stagger back to their ships.
What do they know about loneliness,
those beautiful sailors in white,
sitting on ships on the blue beautiful sea,
launching beautiful bombers
into the beautiful sky,
firing beautiful five-inch projectiles
at places and people they'll never see.
In the morning you wake to a shabby
room in a cheap hotel with a hostess
who's charged you nothing but love,
the war in Asia, a war in America,
you in the middle, twenty years old,
cupping the breast of the only
forgiveness that makes any sense at all.
The girl awakes. She wants you inside her.
The two of you wash the night from your mouths
with slices of sour green mango.
W. D. EHRHART
Clichés Become Clichés Because They're True
(for Ben in Friends Hospital)
You have to understand the way things are:
fire lives in this man's dreams, the way it
roils across the land like water churning,
the way it scours flesh from living bones.
That one's fine and delicate as lace
my grandmother used to make on Sunday
afternoons when she was young and people
stayed at home on Sunday afternoons.
This one's got a wife and kids afraid
they'll let him out again too soon and he'll
come home a nightmare with the family name
and nothing else familiar but their fear.
The woman by the window slashed her wrists.
And that one near the door has got a child
she tried ten years to bear and now can't bear
to hear or see or even think about.
God only knows what breaks inside the brain,
or why. You have to understand the way
things are: there's only circumstance, and chance,
and there but for the grace of God go I.
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