Longview Parade
by John Davis

When the dead speak to me, I ask them

to be patient while I mark time

in the color guard, legs starched-stiff

as my Coast Guard uniform. It’s hot

as gas flares. Veterans in lounge chairs

tilt their heads, suck on beers.

Marching ahead of us a girl in glitter silver

twirls a baton, whoa-whoas the crowd.

The real delight is Michael Landon

riding behind us in a convertible.

Yes, Little Joe Cartwright. Charles Ingalls.

As a boy Michael rescued his mother

from suicide which haunted him. He wet

his bed. She hung his sheets in the window

for all to see his shame. Michael waves.

My left arm cramps from holding a rifle.

Seagulls drift by from the Columbia River.

7000 miles away in a barracks latrine

my ex-camp counselor holds a barrel

in his mouth. It is cold as the veterans’ beer.

The bullet is warm as a campfire. His trigger

finger is wet as splashes from boys on rafts.

We mark time. March on. A murder of crows

watches from a tree. A ball rolls in front of us

like a grenade. The crowd cheers.

 

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 23, Issue 2.

John Davis lives on an island in Puget Sound, Washington. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in North American Review, Passages North and Poetry Northwest. He has a chapbook, The Reservist, (Pudding House Press), and his book, Gigs, is forthcoming from Sol Books.

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