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Fall 2006

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Commando Camaraderie
A Queer Marine Exposed to Friendly Fire Nerve Gas, Losing His Shit
Brian Bauman

You think you know a thing about intimacy? You think you do? We shatter tall buildings and the insides spill out, ashen, white flakes of used to be people. Snowflakes that once were thoughts. Left hand to green circle. The sensation of jalapeno. The address of the place it was born, gone, pre-historic. They didn’t take pictures because they couldn’t afford film. Life is a lie when it isn’t recorded. What was the name of this street?

What do you see in your night vision goggles and their green hue and those desert boots that sag open at the top, unlaced, steaming sweat socks pouring out the tongue like a Pamplona bull dying of thirst? Hot sand. Iron hot. White hot. It charges the limits of this body, the outline cut like a newspaper headline, blunt, crude, my skin just a mask, these joints wire and rubber bands. And all of us. In this oven. Broiling. Baked.

My heart is chocolate cake. You take pieces and pass them around. A gracious host to your battalion. I can’t look at them devouring it. Instead I watch you. The crumbs on your lips. The way you furrow your brow like a dope. The bad bon jovi. The flags flaccidly hanging in dry air. My sunburn is dumb. It doesn’t matter. I crave the Coppertone doggy with its pincher teeth heat seeking your shorts. I crave your white ass, your contrasted waistline. The red of your back. The peeling like old paint.

You remind me of a house. No a home. A home oh on the range. A home I never had. Though it looked like I did. It looked like I had it. A habitat for humanity. Not a habit. But that’s what I had. A habit. I had it. One to keep me up nights while everyone sleeps. One to count one two sheep that run past and leap but don’t lead me to sleep the speed in my skin creeps me out but not you because you’re not aware of me yet. I still think I’m going to be an artist. No marine cadence. I’m listening to Patti smith on record. You’re dropping trou sarge and giving him twenty. I’m still in magnet school.

A make up artist. I want to make up things. Making up. Making over. Instead I patch up. I cast and recast. I cut gauze and clip adhesive with the best of them. Take temperature most accurately. They said don’t tell but then why are they asking?

Do tell. The compound fractures and the caterpillar bull dozers that crunch through the mounds of dead bodies, dry lumber wrapped in nylons, the earth opening up and swallowing the mass like a dentureless mouth. Stretching. Gulp. Silence. Not even a marker. A stone. A cloud that wisps high above in curly-cue flourish and unsnaps, flatlined, and even that disappears. It’s a ghost. And it comes for us. At the end. When you don’t expect to remember its face. And by then I’m gone. Well the center of me. The deepest part. Sheared off. Harvested for the war machine to eat. I’m vegetable oil. I’m spineless. Who knew that’s what it’d cost for a philosophy degree on R.O.T.C.

The G.I. Bill. The, well, Gee, I never thought about it bill. Don’t ask questions. Give me a gun and some heroin son.