Jessica Taylor
Jessica Taylor

Writer | Empowered Lyrical Erotic Romance | Literary Fiction

Monday

8

December 2014

We Gotta Get Out of this Place

Written by , Posted in Poetry

 

Winner of the 2000 Pennsylvania State University Katey Lehman Award for Poetry

 

When my father was skinny and nineteen he sat

in open-air bars west of Saigon and rolled long

bones that went everywhere with him and

hi boys. The tripped on psychedelic sacks

of cobra venom drifting like jellyfish through

cheap brandy.

The U.S. Army let him live

as a vet. tech instead of a front-line man. He healed

animals for Vietnamese tribes high in the humid

mountains. In thanks, the amber men

gave him bronze bracelets carved with their language.

Now, the bracelets dig red trenches

in his arms gone plump.

 

I am nineteen and I watch the History Channel

with obsession. I want to know if you can see a bullet

screaming through the air as it tears towards you lungs. Can you tell

the directions you flesh pieces move to after the mortar round?

I want to know if the second shot

of morphine–one for the pain, two for 

eternity–is relief.

 

In Vietname the olive fronds of the we jungle

combed my father’s damn skin. The smell of

python and ginger sang in the air, and the boys

kept mongoose to weed out the snakes

that did not note who was a Communist and who was not.

My father hummed “All Along the Watchtower,”

and “Lay Lady Lay.” He kept to cassette

Nashville Skyline in his breast pocket

beneath his ID papers and a letter from my mother.

 

In the steaming air of green Vietnam,

maybe my father thought of his own father freezing

in France in ’44. Maybe my grandfather sang

Lili Marlene your lips are close to mine as the metal

entered his leg and he lunged for the shot men

drowning in a Norman river. Red, white, and blue

what does it mean to you?*

 

When my father was nineteen his best friend,

two muddy steps to the left, caught

an exploding bullet in the stomach. My father

collected the soft being intestinal lining

in his hands and sang “Born On the Bayou”

to the hissing snakes coiling into his hands.

One for the pain, two for eternity.

 

*excerpt from the song “There’ll Always Be an England”