CIVIL SERVICE, SOLDIERS' HOME
Pay & Benefits
$2.50 an hour to start,
sick days accrued from date of hire,
five vacation days the first year
provided you pass probation.
Translation: Don't piss off Joe C, Kenny,
Clog, Twatsky, The General, Mother,
Main Office Marge, or The Platypus
& you've got not only a job,
but in twenty-five years a blowjob
of a pension, guaranfuckingteed.
Foreign policy screaming matches.
Domestic policy screaming matches.
French toast, state warehouse margarine & Mrs. Butterworth's.
No. 10 cans of sliced Cling peaches.
Two-foot cylinders of bologna, liverwurst & Canadian bacon.
Loaves of bread warm from the State School.
Hot roast beef sandwiches, mashed potatoes & gravy
whenever Manny owed Joe C a favor.
Joe C all day in the break room
in ironed work greens
& buffed Red Balls.
A keg of beer in the bed
of Kenny's pickup on morning break.
The Clog & Jimmy Show:
You a nigger, Jimmy?
You a kike, Clog?
till Sam wedged between
so one could say Fuck you, Sam.
It was just getting good.
Sam slipping off every break
to tend his wife, ravaged
by multiple sclerosis, Clog saying
He waters her like a potted plant.
Sam knowing what was what.
When he said stop or go
you stopped or went
because Sam Esposito said so.
the med tech who drove a Capri
& loved Joey, horses & Bruni's meatball subs.
Her green polka-dot dress.
Her dabs of Musk, Eau de 1973.
Her up on the examining room counter,
swinging her legs, chatting & chatting,
gulping her big gulping laugh,
me rolling around on the little black stool,
glimpsing & glimpsing the silken yeehah scarlet
any true religion would forgive me wanting
to slide down with my two hooked pinkies.
Oh the whimsical scarlet tent-flap to Natalie.
Oh the silken Dr. Seuss trap-door
to the aromatic cave I thought the gist
The summer after Nixon saved me,
I worked the grounds crew with Joey & Balls,
afternoon break a beer apiece & a joint
of the bad Mexican Joey scored
for ten an ounce in Buena Vista.
Oh boy, did we cool off in the gazebo
the summer after I'd flown into Da Nang
a thousand times. No matter how smart
all my school made me, I was infantry
at the pre-induction physical.
Now, I was high in the Soldiers' Home gazebo
& about to get higher: strolling through the Grove
came Bruno in creased whites, a corncob clenched
between teeth pearly as albino mussel shells.
We did our soul-shakes, said our que pasas
& lit the chiba white boys weren't up to
unless they got educated, lived some life,
or maybe did a tour in the Delta,
which learned you, motherfucker, no matter who
& dope the least of it. But Bruno knew
we weren't just any white boys. We spoke
street 'Rican for essential concepts
like cunt & cuckold. We didn't sweep glass
from the city-park courts & hold our own
for nothing. Joey even looked Puerto Rican,
though he -- or at least his father -- was Sicilian.
Balls was seriously white, except he limped
from mangling a leg doing wheelies
in a cow field outside Pitman. I had a fat beard
with gray in it & could talk any talk.
Anyway, we smoked up. Got blind. Whoosh.
Oh boy. Bruno left & we stayed & stayed.
Then we swept the sidewalk, clipped the hedge
& trimmed the wisteria at Unit One.
Though I later told Balls I'd seen God,
I hadn't, but I did see the sidewalk
& what I swept from it
& the grass I swept it onto
& the black-bristled push-broom shooshing,
my hands & arms brown & undulating,
wet in the white heat of that day
in New Jersey -- skunk-weed, pitch-pine,
safe-white-boy New Jersey
& that seeing stayed seen.