The Evening Shift
When the firing stops, and the noise dies
on the last click
of the high trajectory gun,
we sit exhausted and high-strung
as unsatisfied bitches in Death Valley heat.
A fly zooms by, little knowing it risks its life
while it seeks the salty sweet sweat produced by work and hot steel.
It’s been a long fire;
we neither see nor hear what’s before us:
we merely lower the sights or raise them;
fire long or short; short and then long;
success! Got ourselves a bracket, we have.
And they’re catching hell, they are . . .
We seldom see them now,
but we know they are there, and when they fire
sometimes they kill some of us.
It evens out. It all comes out in the wash,
as they say.
Two more cigarettes and then it’s:
“Police the area, boys;
let’s keep our house and home neat as a firing pin.”
The fly calls in some support, but it’s too late;
the troops have settled down after someone passes the beer around.
And now, those flies haven’t got a chance;
the betting is on to see who kills the most.
Clean up time. The brushes are worked
back and forth, the rags are introduced and rubbed
until the barrels gleam. The guns are really cleaned for luck, you know.
A just in case-maybe-perhaps
there’ll be no more firing until late tonight or
with any luck
A Sheaf of Percussion Fire
Death is alive and well in our zone;
older, somewhat tired, yet up and around.
Early this morning, we opened up on Them;
tit for tat, then,
They opened up on Us, and there was Death,
out of breath,
trying to keep the count. Death is badly in need of assistants,
but the young and able are busy for the moment.
So, resourceful Death makes do
with a Burroughs for Us and an Abacus for Them.
No matter; it’s totting the numbers right what counts
at this stage of affairs,
and Death is having one hell of a time:
“You’ve no idea what I’ve been going through with these children;
I mean, it’s enough to make you cry;
hear them? They’ve been at it all day and half the night.
And it’s all I can do to keep up.”
Eating on the run,
twice chowtime’s come and gone,
and we’re still at it;
pieces laid and relaid, sensings made and changed,
lanyards pulled and the breechblocks clicking
home towards the targets
There’s some smoking white phosphorous.
Who the hell’s firing that?
Alibi! Alibi! The gunners laugh;
the cooks and clerks are passing the ammo,
and they don’t know H.E. from shit . . .
but did your mother,
that sharp from Heavy Explosive, at the instant of burst,
leaves the case at an increased velocity
(and correct me if I’m wrong)
of approximately 200 feet per sec?
And that if the One Gun doesn’t get you,
the Two Gun will?
We’re really laying it on now,
and Death, dragging ass,
is being pushed to the limit.
It’s so unfair.
These poems belong to the title From Klail City to Korea with Love (Arte Público, 2017)
Posted: August 10, 2017 at 9:00 pm