Chest deep in bramble and bog,
pre-dawn chill rubs my shoulders,
kisses the back of my neck
where collar parts company with hair.
Fingers shoved in my pocket
fondle rounds stored there; loose extras
in case the three slips in my pack
are not enough to piss off Pan.
Core-Lokt soft-point, "The deadliest mushroom
in the woods", or so says Remington
on the back of their olive green box.
It's here I flirt with madness-
watch day lift above a night of sweats
and rapid-fire recall; not the hunter but
the hunted, bound to the now by thread, by thorn.
Dali has brushed me onto yesteryears' canvas,
a warped study in camouflaged oils, crossing Thai Binh
on a sampan heavy with mortars and babies dressed
in drab rolling weed in yellow papers that taste of banana.
Cramped joints bid my mind relax; relax,
for you have seen mushrooms in the bush with
nary a round to finger, no thirty-ought-six nestled
against your crotch like salvation's erection-
just a clap bag full of mud and morphine.
Dismal smells like Haiphong. Dank peat, moldered moss;
the sulpher taint of swamp milkweed lines nostrils
with a burn of memory. Fog-hung lowlands shine silver
and purple and green; the dead men beneath those canopies
grow bulrushes from their bones that sing in the breeze.
Crouched deep in last year's deadfall,
marsh sucks my boots with hungry insistence, holds
the hunter's pose with rooted grip. My chest rises,
falls; cold exhalations alone mark my presence.
Whitetail watch from the woodline.
when they move, I will not hear it; no crack of twig
or rustle of leaf to signify their range.
Soon, the bucks will forage the ground cover for fall bulbs,
their racks dipped towards papered hooves-
And I will fire into the wakening sky,
round after round until muscles are loosed; until
my tight canvas relaxes its stretch and spills a voice
into the empty air- sharp retorts that hold no echo.