A novel in verse … and the writing thereof
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The Story

It still wasn’t clear to me how

I’d ended up telling her that story

it had taken Cory so long

to tell me. My mother dragged it out of me, and I let her,

because only this about him interested her,

and even while I

resisted, I could feel myself being

seduced by this chance

     to make him glorious in her eyes:

How he went back for his buddy,

carried him through the lines

     under fire, to safety.

“But when I put him down,”

     he’d told me, “he was dead.

I’d been hauling a dead body.”

When I put my arms around him,

     he was trembling.

“And then, do you know what they did?”

I pressed his hand.

“Gave me a medal. Can you believe it? A hero

     who saved no one.

               That’s me. I said,

wait til I bring someone back

alive, but my sergeant insisted.

After they gave me the medal,

(and I almost didn’t go) my own sergeant,

     who’d been there, who’d known Derango,

apologized—apologized!—because it was only &

a bronze star, not a medal of honor. Jesus!”

“What did you do?” I asked.

“Threw it at his feet. ‘Do you think I care,’

     I asked him, ‘what color it is?’ And I walked off.”

He shook his head. “And?” I prompted.

“Some big honcho who’d been at the ceremony

jumped up and started going on about

desecrating symbols of America and so on, but the Sarge,

who wasn’t really a bad fellow,

just a bit dense sometimes,

put out his arm to stop the guy, said,

‘It’s okay. I’ll handle this.’ That’s when I left.”

“So, was that the end of it?”

“Almost. Except, that night, when I went to my bunk,

     it was there, under my pillow. With a note.”

I waited.

“It said, ‘In case you change your mind.'”

He dropped his head, and I rubbed his neck, back and forth.

“Did you keep it this time?”

He nodded. “Yes. I figured there was just a chance.”

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