By June Avignone
It was my favorite teacher Miss Drake, who I am sure now was a lesbian, a very large one with psychedelic flowered kaftans, who put the idea in my 6th grade head to write a prayer just for you that rainy Jersey afternoon after she asked the class to stand in silence to honor the boys whose names she says will roll again across our TV screens at night like old shopping lists no one wants or needs to remember.
A message for a young handsome soldier, wounded, dying maybe even, scrawled into my wirebound Snoopy notebook after school at our kitchen table between bites of a Devil Dog with milk then straight up to my parent's bedroom to pull the shades down and read the words out loud in front of their dresser mirror, knowing the fit my mother will throw for lighting her long white perfect show candles, wanting so badly to feel as dark and alone as you—
I hold a candle to your body soul and life, I wish you love and happiness, far away from strife — my afternoon ritual, I can't remember the rest, adding a PS at the end for my parents to get me a puppy or dog of any kind, chanted over and over, my Felix Unger mom not caring about her candles any more since she says I ruined them any way, needing so badly for my words to reach you.
Miles away to the place on the map in South East Asia Miss Drake points to, Cu Chi, you'll tell me years later, where you were caught in crossfire, without cover, out of ammunition, mortars coming in from above, hit, left to die, so young, like Sergeant Swoope, the nice kid from Newark who died pinned under you that night, you are dying, too, before a voice tells you in the light you will be okay and the helicopter comes to take you away, back home like you wanted.
Where you lie next to me now in the dark watching TV, my Wolf, because of your lone outsider nature and rugged handsome face with the nose with the deep line down the middle beneath the tip like a dog. Wolf Nose, I call it, how it drives me wild, still, and looking at it tonight I say, "You know, I prayed a real lot in the 6th grade for a soldier and a dog at the same time, that's how I got you, I think." And you say, "I've always told you you're magic," squeezing my hand hard, knowing how much I needed t hear that.
Paterson Literary Review, Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize recipient.
Dan Clendenin: email@example.com