Panama memories

the young Panamanian girl
sitting alongside her sister
in slip and bare feet
reading a comic book
and chewing on bubble gum
at a brothel called the
Teenage Club
waiting for the first
GI's to arrive
six girls lined-up
like bowling pins
rooted to their chairs
with zombie like stares
doing a woman's thing
inside a child's body

Panama one

Shipped off to Panama
Part of the 57th Support Squadron
We underwent Marine training
In Air Base Defense
And it was Lackland Air Force Base
All over again
Except the instructors
Were twice as bad
Or thought they were

One stepped over the line
Drove this kid half mad
Had him confined to the
Brig where real Marines
would make a man
Out of him

A short time later
After he was released
He spoke not a word unless
Spoken too

The day we received our assignments
He was still making up
For lost time
Time that was running out on him
Then one day he just disappeared
Rumor coming down
that they found him
Slumped over on his bunk
Wearing his helmet
With his rifle by his side
A bullet where his heart once

Panama V

1955, the President of Panama
Gunned down at the
Race track
For building schools and roads
And thinking of the people
Special forces manhandling civilians
Looking for a phantom assassin

Two hours into forced insanity
I sneak off to the Amigo Bar
Light up a joint and sit in silence
Trying to shut out the madness
Building up in the streets outside
Half the army looking for an assassin
The other half too stoned to care

The sweet smell of Mary Jane
Floats through the air
Filling the bar
As I put on the safety
And lay my rifle to one side
Smiling at the young bar girl
On the other side of the bar
Not knowing whether
She would like to make love to me
Or put a bullet in my head

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