By Mike Young
And I remember the brother of my friend in the army taking illegal videos of F-16s taking off. And of all my friends who hung playing Magic in the lunch room I remember best the one who didn’t know how to play Magic. He watched the cards get slapped and slapped. The dragons and warriors and busty-ass dawnbringers. He said he would’ve played basketball but then he showed us his feet. And it’s true the army took him anyway. They hole him up under a lamp that swings. He’s in charge of all the numbers. When he goes too quiet, they make him do the numbers by hand. And I remember the soldier allergic to the sun. And I remember the soldier I met washing her boots in the river. She said she didn’t have a better place to do it. And I remember the soldier I met shaving his neck with his keys. He said the texture was the only thing that put him to sleep. And I remember no one has ever asked me if I was a soldier. And I remember my girlfriend’s camouflage backpack, that new kind of camouflage that looks like an 8 bit video game. And how that’s all the truckers wanted to talk about when she hitchhiked to Colorado. And I remember she slept in a barn during a tornado and broke her feet in a ditch. And I remember she taught Burmese children who fled from soldiers. And I have seen probably six or seven movies where being a soldier is pretty funny. Except until the end, when even Bill Murray has to get his eyebrows going down.
And my father says his father was a spy against the Japanese, that he kept all their birds off our redwoods. And I remember knocking over the water glass at Denny’s during a fight with my grandmother about immigrant pickers of lettuce. And I remember thinking the Greek poets would be so much funnier if they didn’t rap about spears all the time. Sometimes all I want to be are the arrows the uncontacted tribes throw at the helicopters. Other times I can’t get to sleep. In the Kinglsey Cave Massacre of 1871, the white men shifted to a revolver because the rifles made the babies drip. The Civil War invented photography and it didn’t even help. There are two reliable ways to make me cry with a profile picture: pictures of kindergarten friends turning pregnant and pictures of kindergarten friends as soldiers. How even the word soldier means some kind of solid coin but all I get caught up on is what gets spilled. And then again my friend who moved to Boston was a soldier, and now he meditates to reruns of the 2004 World Series with the sound off. He says that he doesn’t want to be one of those soldiers who comes back without a grip. And the opposite of doom is room. And then again sometimes my friends are soldiers and I don’t answer the phone.
And then again I remember Japanese tourists taking wedding photos on the bridge over the river Kwai. And then again I remember disco lights on the bridge over the river Kwai. And then again the t-shirt of an elephant playing soccer I bought, and gave to my girlfriend because it was too small for me, and now I have no idea where the shirt is, or her, and how it’s so obvious I probably shouldn’t even tell you that love has nothing to do with safety. And the museum down the street from the bridge over the river Kwai, with the skeletons barely under any glass. With the guns arranged with their dicks pointing out like one of those parties where the only thing you can say about the eye contact is that it’s math-like. With the soldiers and dragons and Buddhist space capsules and the first pornographic magazines the king ever allowed. With the random signs I just have to show you: PREPARE ARE FOR DEATH BEST, BEFORE DEATH. COME ALONE, GONE ALONE, IS THE FACT, STAY CALMNESS. And how just now I read a blog written by an indignant British dude who found this museum not solemn enough and then he went and rode an elephant. With the Tupperware I still do not understand on the display in the exhibit about the Yellow Shirts, but I just try to eat my khanom krok and say khop-kun-krahp like there’s not all this blood under me. All the translations attempted. The language we catch in our mouths like God is some crazy-ass mother bird. Really my favorite word to put next to the word God is the word abeyance. It’s not like we even have to close our eyes.
Mike Young is the author of Look! Look! Feathers, a book of stories, and We Are All Good If They Try Hard Enough, a book of poems. He edits NOÖ Journal, runs Magic Helicopter Press, and writes for HTMLGIANT. Find him at http://mikeayoung.blogspot.com.