Sunday, June 26, 2016

Stone Wall

The day before the army got me, Max
took me out to get me drunk and
get me laid.
I'd just turned 18 and he believed
if basic training didn't kill me,
Vietnam would.
The drunk was easy even though
I was under age -- Max knew all
the bartenders in all the bars though
why he picked the bar he did was
a mystery to me -- just as was his
idea of whom I might get laid
by since the only people he introduced
me to were men and even then
I thin he was only showing me off
so he could bring me home to his
place later.
He kept telling me the whole
night he didn't want to see me
die a virgin.
I kept telling him I wasn't
a virgin.
But in his eyes, I learned later,
I was.
I must have disappointed him
when I got drunk, but not laid.
that night instead went home to
sober up for the sober ride to
Fort Dix from Newark the next
I heard about the riot even before
 Max wrote -- his letter full of guild
at not being the one to have fought
back -- a frail flower child who
set lady bugs free -- could not raise
his fist when other I'd men on
my night with him did.
On an after-basic pass, I
I made the same trip with him to
the same place to meet the same
people only to find all of
them had changed -- or what it me?
Max was as proud as a rooster,
and crowed over each, introducing
them as the heroes they were, each
wearing invisible medals
of honor on their puffed-out chests,
each having endured and enrured
until they could endure no more.
The drunk was different although
the outcome was the same -- I took
the bus home to Paterson alone. Max
took up with some hero from
Christopher Street and later he wrote
me in Fort Dix that he had pretended
it was me.
"I love you," he wrote at the end of this
one of his many letters.
"I love you, too, Max," I
wrote back in one of the very few
I gave in return, "and I always

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