blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1



From The Machine Gunner’s Letters

           (as Otto Dix)

How, you write, will I survive? With instinct, trigger-eye,
              the soldiers like turtles flipped over in the mud, limb-flail and broken
shell. These thoughts move through me as I write, a telegraph tape
              slipping through fingers. The lumberjack, they call me,
timber in the field, green blemished by red-splatter, like leaves at fall’s
       beginning. Behind the gun, I am eternity, I am time looking out
              from the inside of a clock, the click-stop finger that marks
the finish line. My body, knuckle-ache and recoil, records each loss,
       tally-marks on the black slate of the heart. I am the vomit-taste in the mouth,
              what they know is watching, though they race towards me as I
hand death out, a parade-master tossing candy to the crowd. Later, under star-
              flutter, the night opening parachutes as it falls, I have to pick, like needles
from a pin-cushion, the splintered death out of me. How once, I made
              your body gleam, the tongued lips, boot-polish on the nipples,
           your skin rubbed with orange peels. I could have, then, painted
beautifully. Now, even the most gentle touch dissolves, my finger harp-strumming
    the trigger, grenade pin held between the teeth. Love, all night the gun,
       cartridge oil, rivet, barrel clip, puts itself together in my mind.
              It’s so quiet out there, I can almost hear the maggots trash-
picking the fields, or the final woman-call a body makes. Someone should rat-
                     skitter through the foxholes, the moonstricken thistle-bush,
              and close their awful, glowing mouths. Someone should, mercy-
handed, swift, sew this trench-line closed. Tomorrow, more men will ladder
              the trench wall, mud-faced, horrible, caravan towards me in the dawn.
  How will I survive? I will kill one man over and over until I’ve killed them all. 

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