At Lackland Air Force Base
In San Antonio, Texas
The D.I. told us that the
Korean War was not over
The truce not withstanding
Said that the Commie hordes
Had no code of honor
And couldn't be trusted
So they separated some of us
Myself included
And assigned us to the elite
Air Base Defense School
Taught by ex-Marines

One kid was weaker than the
Rest of us
Worse yet he was a pacifist
They took him out to the
Rifle range and stripped him
Down to his shorts
And had him shoot at moving
Targets for hours in the rain

Not long afterwards
He came down with pneumonia
And spent three weeks in the
Base hospital
And was later dropped from the school

The Military Intelligence boys questioned
Us for days on end
But no one betrayed the
Code of Honor
For we were trained to obey
And honor was second only
To the kill


This same drill instructor
Took us on a field exercise
Bagged a rabbit with the
Skill of a mountain man
Removed his survival knife
And slit it straight up
Sliding his hand inside
And coming out with its guts
Then drank of the blood
Smiling as he said
"It makes a man of you."

Two three others jumped right in
As others screamed in joy or agony
One leaving his breakfast
On the ground

We wore the smell of death
like a whore's sweet perfume
The day we graduated
Accepting honors at the company
Parade ground


At Lackland Air Force Base
During basic training
We were asked to fill out
A survey
And asked some questions
About our religious affiliation

When the Sergeant asked me
What religion I was
I answered Protestant
And when he asked what
I answered Protestant
Never having practiced
Religion much

The Sergeant didn't like my response
Believing I was a wise-ass
And asked again what denomination
I was and I responded in the same manner
Until I was taken to the company barracks
By another Sergeant and a Corporal
With a smile on his pimply face

Once there I was made to strip
Down to my shorts
And told to sit down on a chair
While they alternated using me
For batting practice
Asking the same damn question
Over and over again
And my response was always the same

Finally they grew tired of the game
And told me I could get dressed
That they would put down Atheist
And why didn't I just say so
In the first place
And save everyone all the trouble

A. D. Winans is a native San Francisco poet and graduate of San Francisco State University.
He returned from Panama in 1958 to participate in the North Beach Beat literary movement.
He edited and published Second Coming for seventeen years. He is the author of over 40
chapbooks and books of poetry and prose. His work has appeared internationally and has
been translated into eight languages. He took an early retirement in 1995 from the U.S.
Department of Education, where he worked in the Civil Rights Division, investigating cases
of discrimination against minorities, women and the disabled. A book of his Selected Poems
will be published this year by Feel Free Press in England.

2004 Underground Voices