Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2020  Vol. 19 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Eleanor Remembers Her Soldier
for BC, 1970

At twenty-three, Mike’s the man, keeps a pistol
in his grandma’s rusty Ford, holds whatever you need

in his basement stash. Six months home from Nam
he’s still Marine-muscled, has a bronze medal,

keeps his shades on in the dark. Hey baby,
he drawls when I walk into Clancy’s,

pats the stool beside him, courtly, orders me
a Sauterne. The wine’s cold and grassy.

We don’t talk much, lean into the jukebox
spinning Hank and Patsy till last call. Mike gets a six-

pack and a bottle of Wild Turkey, walks me home
to the shotgun rental I share with T, who’s out

again. Black candles pool in saucers on the orange-
crates, flicker shadows on Janis and The Doors.


We sit beneath Janis and The Doors, shadows flickering,
the bare mattress beside us with its question of who

or what we’re willing to betray. Mike’s got his back against
the wall, short legs stretched out. He’s loaded

on whatever he’s taken in the bathroom and drinking
from the bottle. A firefight, he says, his unit pinned down

so long in the mud and rain, I just couldn’t stay still,
man. Ran across that burning field to Charlie’s bunker

and opened up my M16—greased every fuck in there.
His voice is low and silky and the room seems to shimmer.

I don’t say a thing. I just want him to stop talking,
but he pulls his glasses down to make sure I’m listening

and smiles and says, It was a rush. I dug it—
and now I’m a goddamn hero, got the star to prove it.


He smiles and says, man, if I did that here  . . . over there
and I’m a hero, got the goddamn star to prove it. The room’s

become a cave, we’re underwater, and he’s not Mike,
not the gentle boy I like to brush up against, just a little,

the one who lets me blow on his cue for luck.
And though shame hasn’t come for either of us yet,

something hovers in the dark between us. I want him gone.
And he does go, first draining the bottle, then

kissing the top of my head. Two days later, T and I
watch the morning sky flare and blacken over the draft board,

listen to the sirens shrill downtown, and we know.
Mike’s run, rumors are to Canada. When the FBI

come, I think they look just like they do in the movies—
crew cuts and trench coats, shiny black shoes.  

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