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.