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John Repp

In a corner

Of the same tent a small boy in a coat

Sobs and sobs...

- Allen Grossman

Mike’s transistor crackles a mystery

from 1940. He says, “My pop loves

this show.” It’s 1965, but I don’t say so.

His mess kit floats between us.

After Kirchner paired-up the troop

for bare-knuckle bouts round the fire,

my three uphill punches landed in the air

beneath Mike’s chin, so he kicked my legs

from under me. Then the rain came again.

Lard-ass me. Swamp Thing him. I rattle

the dead flashlight. The radio sells scrapple.

Mike can’t read a compass. I can’t swim.

The boxing bored Kirchner, so no one

earned dinner, but you can’t expect better

when you fail to lash a lean-to, fail to orienteer,

fail to work flint & tinder, fail to march

by the left flank march by the left flank march

in the black rain that rivers among the pines.

The pain in my bladder is biblical. Kirchner hates

what pathetic excuses we are. I like Combat!

Mike says The Gallant Men look like his pop’s

old platoon. I can’t explain Boy Scouts

to my son.“Why did you do what you hated?”

What an adventure the soaked sleeping bag,

its plaid flannel, its leaky, vulcanized shell,

the stink of boy-sweat & mildewed canvas.

I split the sleeve of saltines my mother zipped

in a bank-deposit pouch. The organ deepens

the mystery. Mike gives me his canteen

& I give him the crackers, a slice of cheese,

half the chocolate bar I’ve been hoarding,

but the radio dies & the rain goes on,

all of us way too old to want our mothers

to come for us as they’ve always promised

to come carry us out of the all-night rain.

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John Repp has two chapbook collections forthcoming: Madeleine Wolfe—A Sequence (Seven Kitchens Press) and Cold-Running Current (Alice Greene & Co.). He grew up along the Blackwater Branch of the Maurice River in southern New Jersey.