Crows, coyotes, and the ultimate buzzard

His father said SON
Sometimes you need people
Other times a stiff drink will suffice
Both can lead to the bottom
So beware of the shadow in the sky
And the howl from the hill

His mother said BOY
You build your bridges too long
They'll collapse before you cross them
Be afraid to face the truth
No one uses it you rule with words
Bend and stretch and weave them

His wife said
YOU and YOUR fucked up dreams
Can't make them come true
And can't let go of 'em.
You're all talk, no action,

He said,
ACTION I'll show you ACTION
as he grabbed his Louisville Slugger
and chased her around the room.

The judge said SIR
Your wife will get the house
The car the checkbook and
The Louisville SLUGGER

His lawyer said
You get a rundown-rented-painted-chipped-room
With the toilet in the HALL
And a hot plate by the BED

And he said,
The walls are too close
I'll poke my head through the window PANES

Which he did
And the slumlord said
To cover the damages

The doctor said,
"The fine trimmed lawn is sprouting weeds
And the skeletons are posing in the picture window.
So beware of the shadow in the sky
And the howl from the hill
Both can lead to the bottom

Now, nothing is said
As all keep their distance
And point at him
Crouching in the corner
Covering his ears
Waiting for wings.

Billy's been to Iraq

Billy was named after his father
Who was named after his
But everyone calls him junior

And like the men in his family
He knew the only way
To make a decent living

In the hills of eastern Kentucky
Was coal mining or the military
So he became a soldier

When a marine recruiter
Offered insurance housing
And money for college

In exchange for four years
Since a high school education
Barely guaranteed minimum wage

Following his father's footsteps
Who served in Viet Nam
He went infantry and was assigned

1st Battalion of the 2nd Marine Division
And for a while felt like he was helping
As he patrolled among the palms and sand

For bombs planted by insurgents
While finding time to make
The Iraqi children laugh with offers of candy

Then an attack was called
For the capital of the Iraqi subversive
Where no American forces

Had gone in months
And a blur of burning white phosphorus
And high explosives pounded

The city of Fallujah
For a full day as Billy
Guided tanks into position

From a twenty- pound radio
That brought the thunder and robbed
His left ear of sound

At sunrise he learned
That his best friend from infantry school
Had not survived an ambush

Afterwards he would recall
How hard it is to raise a rifle
And aim at another human being

Not in spite but in duty
And bypass all that Sunday morning worship
Taught that one shall not kill

Even after returning
He learned he had brought
More than memories home

Assuming a combat stance
At the backfire of a car
Waking in the night

With his new bride's neck
Between his hands or
Screaming at insurgents at McDonalds

He's unable to sit at family gatherings
Without his back to the wall
And a clear view of the door

Gone is the easygoing quick to laugh
Prankster who kept everyone on edge
With his wit and love of life

Replaced by a cynical young man
Full of animosity and uncertainty
Toward a government who misinformed

Every day his family prays
That the boy they sent overseas with pride
And a purpose will be home soon

Until then all they can offer
Is patience and love and the explanation
Billy's been to Iraq

In the sin of a magarita morning

I dance in the arms of an angel
Enjoy the curl of her smile
As her eyes dart back and forth
Like a child at the county fair
Hard pressed to pick a prize
After bursting the big balloon

Hopes higher than a Ferris wheel
Almost legless I glide full throttle
Into a happy collision with the cold concrete
Undaunted I return to reality
In time to stumble through large looming gates
Which guard the manicured grass

Dodging the grounded angels
I introduce myself to their granite stares
And apologize for the early intrusion
Before heading for a bright green blanket
Shining like brand new dimes
Where upon the headboard

I place a single rose

Jason Kelly Richards was born in Kentucky
in a classic year for Chevolets, raised in
North Carolina during the best decade of
music and is currently planning his escape
from Florida because the pay sucks and the
humidity is absurd. His work has appeared
in Pearl, The Chiron Review and others
including The Ever-Dancing Muse plus online
at ThunderSandwich, Red Booth Review,
AntiMuse, PoetsCanvas, 63Channels, Miller's
Pond and forthcoming at The Indite Circle.

2006 Underground Voices