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Wednesday, September 14, 2011


by Susan Gabrielle
September 14
your order-of-call number determined by a blue plastic capsule,
malformed Easter eggs resembling those once gathered in a Teaneck backyard
drawn from a deep, glass jar
a fairer way to induct young men
drawn by a congressman from Pulaski
more fair than the original system of oldest first
with short arms and dark-framed glasses
dressed as if for the coming funerals
How could your parents have known on that day
September 14, those twenty-some years ago
cradling you in blue bunting
lowering you into the newly-painted white-slatted crib
radiant faces, so pleased you’d arrived a few days early
a single son to wash away the years of waiting
You listen to the radio announcer
call the fated number, September 14
as you shower and shave for your night job at Lombardi’s
you wash and wash and wash the blade
wash the blood from a nick near the ear
Pall of silence follows you onto the windowless bus to Ft. Drum
your mother having tucked a neatly-trimmed scrap of the blue blanket in your pocket
for luck, for protection she said
snow and ice ill-preparing you for the tunnels near Cu Chi
where being the smallest guy is now valued
chosen first in this game of cat and mouse
mouse and mouse
Descending into that hole two-and-a-half by two-and-a-half
with only a pistol and flashlight for comfort
it doesn’t take long to meet a set of eyes
frighteningly similar to your own dark ones
shoot or be shot
kill or be killed
no time to ask
if it makes sense
no time to ask
if there’s a family waiting outside the tunnel
no time to ask questions
Again and again you descend
until there’s nothing left of you except
the scrap of blanket still in your pocket, bloodied around the edges now
sent back home to the mother waiting
your bunting now a field of white stars
on a dark blue background
September 14

Susan Gabrielle is an adjunct writing instructor at a university, and obtained her MFA from University of San Francisco.  She has had work published in the The Christian Science Monitor, TheBatShat, and local publications.  Susan is currently at work on a poetry chapbook, War Games.