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.