(For Dwight Macdonald)


Under the too white marmorial Lincoln Memorial,
the too tall marmorial Washington obelisk,
gazing into the too long reflecting pool,
the reddish trees, the withering autumn sky,
the remorseless, amplified harangues for peace—
lovely, to lock arms, to march absurdly locked
(unlocking to keep my wet glasses from slipping)
to see the cigarette match quaking in my fingers,
then to step off like green Union Army recruits
for the first Bull Run, sped by photographers,
the notables, the whores…fear, glory, chaos, rout…
our green army staggered out on the miles-long green fields,
met by the other army, the Martian, the ape, the hero,
his new-fangled rifle, his green, new, steel helmet.


Where two or three were heaped together, or fifty,
mostly white-haired, or bald, or women…sadly
unfit to follow their dream, I sat in the sunset
shade of their Bastille, their Pentagon,
nursing leg and arch-cramps, my cowardly,
foolhardy heart; and heard, alas, more speeches,
though the words took heart now to show how weak
we were, and right. An MP sergeant kept
repeating, “March slowly through them. Don’t even brush
anyone sitting down.” They tiptoed through us
in single file, and then their second wave
trampled us flat and back. Health to those who held,
health to the green steel head…to the kind hands
that helped me stagger to my feet, and flee.

This Issue

November 23, 1967