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THE VETERAN

Page 53
Download PDF of this full issue: v50n1.pdf (30.8 MB)

<< 52. Lethal Betrayal: The Purple Heart We Never Got (poem)54. Invisible Wounds - Part 1 >>

Kill Today, So Tomorrow Will Not Come (excerpt)

By r g cantalupo

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In May, 1970, I was in a hospital in Yokohama, Japan, when I heard the news of the Kent State shooting. With the acceptance of the shooting came the realization of my own psychological pain and fear of coming home. This is a description of what I was going through during that time.

Against the black, moonless night and the distant snow-capped mountain, I could see the bare branches of a large tree out the second-floor, hospital window.

The bare branches sketched onto the mountain's vast white mound like lifelines on a palm. Spare, without leaves or buds, the branches looked like frayed wire.

Frayed synaptic connections reaching toward the nothingness in the dark sky of my brain: The severed synapses in my frontal lobe, cauterized by the red-hot pieces of shrapnel piercing my skull and liquidating my frontal lobe's soft flesh, no longer connected to emotional memories.

Janice, my mother, my friends, my past life before Vietnam, gone, liquidated into nothingness in the wormhole created by the shrapnel's path.

No wonder I want to climb up Mount Fujiyama and lie down in the snow. White on white, a severed synapse frozen in time, unable to connect with what is gone.

Janice, my wife, my first love, making sweet love; our birthdays, our Christmases, the love at first sight moment we touched eyes; joyous moments, heartbreaking moments; the miscarriage and death of our child—Rose we were going to call her—Rose after my Aunt Rose who gave my mother the money to leave New York, to leave my abusive, war-haunted father and buy a bus ticket to California, to start a new life—gone, gone, gone, like Devil, like Lonny, like Baby San; two pieces of shrapnel inside my brain, no larger than the BB's I shot birds with when I was twelve; tiny wormholes in my brain like wormholes in an apple, the pink blossom of my frontal lobe riddled with empty space where memories of Janice and my mother used to be.

Janice, Janice standing at the gate of FTA Airlines.

An air kiss blown to me as I turn toward the long ramp heading toward the open door.

Janice's face juxtaposed over mine in the night ward's transparent window.

My face. Hers. Translucent in this glass.

Our faces appearing and disappearing by a simple shift of my head; a slight turn and we are double-exposed, transparent, and then gone.

Beyond, black night, bare branches reaching up toward the distant, snow-capped mountain.

New buds nub the branches; white snow now gone from the mountain's foot; black ground sifting into gray-white snow, and then on up into pure whiteness, holding our transparent faces like thin, skeletal hands in the window.

Janice. Janice and I. Held. Buds sprouting from our lips, noses, eyes.

Janice blowing a kiss.

A kiss made of air, a dream image translucent in the window; thin, skeletal, cherry tree hands holding our faces, and close by Panda's moans, "Ooooh, oooh, oooh…" in the bed beside me; and far off, in another dream, Janice moaning, "oooh, oooh, oooh…"

Oh, Janice, Janice. I cannot hold your face.

If I shift, I lose you. If I close and open my eyes, your face vanishes from the glass.

By day, the buds rise on the pink, bark skin.

The branches wave in the gentle breeze, wave as ghostly hands might wave.

On the way to Sonoma, grape vines waved at us from the highway as we drove past.

Our honeymoon?

No.

After.

Before I got drafted.

We drove up to the wine country, though neither of us could drink, or visit the wine-tasting bars because we were too young.

We just drove past up into redwood country. Sun and shadows flickered through the car's windows, a kaleidoscope of shapes and shades on our skin.

I touched Janice's bare thigh and slid my palm up along her soft flesh.

Warm. Warm.

She's so young, so beautiful. Her blue eyes are moist with love.

My palm moves up to her breast.

Janice, my cock stirs in my pajamas, rises.

The buds on the cherry tree rise like nipples.

Janice. Janice.

And then she's gone, gone into the blue sky, gone beyond the budding branches and into the melting snow-capped Mount Fujiyama.

My palm sweats from her imagined thigh; my cock's hard from phantom love.

Pink now, the buds blossoming open.

Tiny pink flowers opening against Mount Fuji's black foot.

Each day the snow melts a little more and the blossoms burst open against the bright, turquoise sky.

Pink like Janice's pink cheeks when I kissed her long and full, when we made love and she came and I came and we shuddered together and hugged and held and loved so voraciously to hold back the dawn; the day I would leave, walk up the ramp to the plane and sit down in a window seat and search, search for her one more time; still searching for her as the plane rolled and turned toward the runway, toward the Pacific sea and Vietnam; lifting up into the clouds and gone, gone to a war neither of us understood; loving so hard that last night my lips hurt from kissing as I sit back in the seat and close my eyes and imagine her—as I still imagine her—as I will always imagine her.

Pink blossoms, pink like Janice's skin, like Janice's pink cheeks as she blushed the first time I told her I loved her.

Pink cherry blossoms and pink skin—oh how I want to touch her tonight, to embrace her pink warmth—pink like a newborn's cheeks; like our unborn daughter; like the pink skin of the open wound on my forearm.

Birth, death, rebirth, the green buds bursting open into pink blossoms, and I, this new I, crowning from my brain-damaged mind; this I without emotional memory, without love, self-love, hope; this I who holds a Zippo flame to my skin to feel real, who blossoms pink blisters from my skin; pink to red, red, pink deepening into red, into blood, wounded dreams, bleeding friends; pink night-terrors covered over with pink rice paddy blood; turning into pink mud, into Lonny's blood, into Devil's, into Baby San's; pink flowers bursting from their arms, legs, mouths, eyes, heads; pink blossoms birthing from the pinkish brown branches, rising up against the white, snow-capped mountain, against the white, empty, blank spaces in my mind.

Birth, death, rebirth—this I born on the killing field, and gone; gone into the spider hole, into the mortar pit, into this dark place.

Pink petals raining down, down, down.

Birth, death, rebirth—oh how I wish I could roll out of the hospital, roll down the sidewalk and be gone, down onto the grass, down under the cherry tree as the petals fall and fall, raining down on my face, my eyes, my life.

Oh, bury me under a blanket of pink cherry blossoms.

Oh, let me lie naked under the pink petals falling, falling like pink snow, thousands of pink petals falling like pink snowflakes kissing my skin.

I want to wash my body with their fragrant, pink kisses.

I want to cleanse my dreams with their sweet, pink breath.


rg cantalupo, (Ross Canton), is a poet, playwright, filmmaker, novelist, and director. His work has been published widely in literary journals in the United States, England, and Australia. He served in the 25th Infantry Division as an RTO for an infantry company from 1968-69 and received three purple hearts and a Bronze Star with a combat V for Valor under fire.



<< 52. Lethal Betrayal: The Purple Heart We Never Got (poem)54. Invisible Wounds - Part 1 >>



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