The Bench, 1973

Sergeant Brooks,

maybe five foot three or four

with immense forearms like Popeye

and a wire brush moustache,

was transferred to mess hall duty

in Göppingen after Vietnam.

Too kill-crazy, looking for enemies

around corners.

On a training maneuver

in one of those freezing German woods,

tired as hell, trying to eat lunch

in pouring rain, Brooks shoots

the shit with his mess team.

After a firefight you get hungry,

(the thousand-yard stare

in his eyes) I couldn’t find

no dry place to sit down

and eat my lunch. All around me

rice paddies. So I started gathering up

bodies, putting them in a pile

until it was large enough

so I could sit

on top and eat my "C" rations

with my feet out of the water.