11:1: “ZuZu’s Petals”, by W. C. Roberts

11:1: “ZuZu’s Petals”, by W. C. Roberts

in the VA hospital like a nurse in fatigues
he looks up at her and turns the page
of his/her manual (what he knows
by heart) and he hears voices
in the ambient noise:
“every night I throw away
a grenade that was meant for me
and every night it winds up
in her lap” “mother,
I didn’t mean all those things I said
before evacuation”  how chicks scatter
like pigeons from a rooftop when they ask
what’s on your mind, soldier
and you tell them
–worse, if the sound of the bells

confounds you, and you take hold

of your scalp and (hinges creaking) lift the lid

so they can see you’ve nothing left 

to hide? 
another forehead blossoms
before we heard the shot (unfolding
thoughts of Ft. Benning to line our pockets
with) now that he’d been schooled
in finer things, and we
we like to think so

WC Roberts bought a second-hand television set in 2010, after selling his first 100 poems.  He can’t get Mystery Theater or Happy Days reruns on his rabbit ears, not way out where he is, so he Rarebit Dreams of riding in the sidecar with motorcycle-tough Miss Marple as she jumps the shark.  Or tries to.  Night after night…  He says:

 Eggnog!  Nutmeg is a mild hallucinogenic.  It’s a Wonderful Life! was on TV and I was Brigadier General Jimmy Stewart, flying his last mission in a B-52 over North Vietnam.  The year was 1966.  The sound of carpet bombing inspired the rhythm, while my impressions of Stewart and his careers (in Hollywood, and in the military) provided some of the substance and the paradoxes of this poem — which I’d like to dedicate to the doctors and nurses of General Hospital, who treated me with more patience than I could afford.

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