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In those days…

                1.
In those days...
chestnuts wrapped in bacon,
cocktail parties— gin and tonics and blended scotch
all the cigarettes you ever wanted
an academic, old-fashioned after the war get together
We fought hard—realize
this was the rare enemy with whom
you couldn’t make peace
You don’t compromise with that type
You fight such people to death
You need real planners, real luck
The more you did the more he asked
If you didn’t measure up you were gone
He expected you to take on tough responsibilities
and backed you completely if you did
What you do now might taint everything you ever did...
Not one American soldier is going to die on that fucking beach,
not there—we go here, his strategy wasn’t always so good but ohh, his good luck
you could almost depend on it
He had though one terrible, one awfully bad temper
We skillfully maneuvered around his opposite
The tiresome buffoon—that old idiot wore all the uniform the law allowed,
affected a rhetorical style designed for future historians,
referred to himself in the third person and always missed
the best opportunities to keep his damn mouth shut

 

                2.
We didn’t care what he did or with whom discreetly
Don’t listen to that bloody narcissist—like so many
she’ll justify and forgive herself for just about anything
In that war we’d depend on each other
and no one was in anyone’s business
You don’t make a successful career on your own
You need help, lots of it
The seeker is never as popular as the sought
People always want what they can’t get
If you interfere you may have to regret it
“Losing my son so young
was the greatest grief and disappointment of my life
The one I have never been able to entirely forget
The keenest loss, it comes back to me now as I write this”
Later he’d become subtle, witty and daring
But then, after their son died
the marriage was clearly in danger...
Look it—two young people, the boy was just three,
like that drifting apart in their grief
with so little warmth between them
Comfort, blindness, wishful thoughts
jealously knows no logic
It doesn’t look for or expect reciprocity
She left—when they leave I forget them
I don’t dwell on the people who leave

 

                3.
Self-effacing steady, not like his flamboyant unpredictable friend
he became in old age subtle, brilliant, difficult
Freedom is always circumscribed by fate
Arbitrary fiats, the prices we pay
He was used to issuing orders and having them obeyed
He was not an original thinker but
he did think for himself
He had a great practical sense
Nor was he coarse like most military men
Assimilation, bourgeois success, political ambition...
“The man smiles too much and says too little
He uses many words and says nothing at all...”
He wasn’t lazy but was easily bored
When he led he led by indirection
Everyone he met thought his interest in them was firm, genuine
She sometimes tired of being his secret mistress
She spent so much of her time waiting for his calls
or for him to appear unannounced but the stakes were high,
the tension—behind enemy lines it was exile if you were lucky
or, for our kind, annihilation
The strategy sessions lasted deep into night
He didn’t expect perfection, of course, there was ambiguity
So much of what we did wouldn’t be right—people would die,
but we felt in those days a ragged pathway, an end—
the ultimate scent of victory

 

 

-May 6, 2012-