Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2012 v11n1
print version

Regiment, 1941

We dig up stalks of corn and feed the pigs
until their stomachs explode. We march
in rows and close our eyes to show them
we’ve learned. Hold a shotgun steady,
arch your back, they say from a megaphone,
in a tower they cut from breadfruit wood,
through a window with bars. We shoot
the wounded mutts on command
in the head. There’s a man whose name is written
in symbols over his pocket, who tells us
to burn the hillside, and we do, for practice,
with the wind at our backs. We wait in a bunker
to watch for what moves through the smoke.
This is how the shoulder rotates to throw
a grenade, and they make the motion.
Here is a field of rice paddies we built
by flooding the taro swamp. Here is the temple
where we poured the mold of Buddha.
Here is how to point a gun to a plane’s window
and shatter it. On the island of Tonoas
we cull the vines and roots where concrete
will cover the clay and become a nerve center.
This is the word for road. This is a Jeep,
they teach the girls. There are ways to ride them
without falling. This is how to stop a thigh
from bleeding when shrapnel gashes deep
and disappears. There are ways to kill fish
we didn’t know and ways to hold a knife
to the gills. We bury pipes and wires
and learn codes meaning hide, find cover,
load your guns and fire, bury yourself
wherever you are. We learn the sounds
for a dying propeller and the whistle,
the endless spiral. On the far shore of Etten,
we invent a runway from dead coral we stack
and from a village we flatten with tanks.    

return to top