Martin Willitts Jr
I am a former jazz mandolin player and once played as a child on live radio with Stephane Grappelli. I was also a field medic during Vietnam as a part of the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers). My poems have appeared in Blue Fifth Review, Centrifugal Eye, Stone Canoe, Kentucky Review, and others. I have 8 full-length collections and over 20 chapbooks of poetry. My forthcoming books include How to Be Silent (FutureCycle Press) and God Is Not Amused With What You Are Doing In Her Name (Aldrich Press).
Somehow, as a child, I avoided severing a finger in a bailer,
or thrasher. So many close calls; so much respect
for the blade, yet drawn to touch them while spinning.
It takes a certain obsession with death or curiosity.
I was working the fields at eight, listening to body counts
on the transistor radio in between sacred music.
The absurdity never got me. They never found a cure
for war and fascination with death. The curve of it
is some path I came to the edge of, then stepped back.
Slaughtering animals at an early age does that.
Standing knee deep in blood, the brown-rust of it all,
like a christening, like the reverse of a cleansing.
When I was shaking in the fields of blood,
drawing cold fire from all sides in Vietnam,
holding a man’s intestines like stands of pearls,
the chopper blades thrashing the wind into bone,
I noticed the spine, the rib cage, still hearing
the man’s radio for help, knowing there was none,
somewhere in the death surrounding us with space
was this sacred music, and the animals of bullets
could not find us in this circle, like rust cleaned off
honed to clean metal, sharpened to nick a finger.
There were no more close-calls that day
which died like a man holding the intestines of life.
©2015 Martin Willitts Jr