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Thursday, October 04, 2007


by Earl J. Wilcox

I remember it well, my dear.
I was a soldier on bivouac,
and you were back home
working in the diner.
We lowly privates had done
all the chores the sergeant had
asked us—cleaned our weapon
(not rifle, my dear), hiked two
miles in the dark, dark night
deep into the craggy hills
of western Arkansas. Set up
our pup tents, signed on for
our turn at guard duty.

During a smoke break (smoking
Was still very popular then, and
almost all of us GIs did it, stripped
the butts and ground them out
with the heel of our GI-issued boots),
some smart Yankee had heard
somehow about Sputnik and asked
the sergeant if he thought we could
see it rocketing overhead.

What happened then is still drilled
in my memory, my dear. The man
with three stripes opined that the
Russians were just making it all up,
and that we weren’t likely to see
any “flying saucers” floating around
the bush country of Arkansas. His
reply quieted us as we trudged on,
bones aching, sore-spirited.

Still, before the night ended, three
of us snuck out of our pup tents,
easily steered clear of the so-called
guards on duty, and took another hike
On a little ridge about a mile from camp,
we three sat most of that night until we
finally caught a glimpse of that little
bleeping, bright star circling round
and round our mother earth in orbit.

From that time on night marching
was a lark for me and my buddies,
as we always knew where to look to
see the first rocket into space. Turns
out the Russians weren’t making it
all up after all, my dear.

Earl J. Wilcox founded The Robert Frost Review, which he edited for more than a decade. His poetry was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize.