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A novel in verse … and the writing thereof
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Caveat

But I could not go quietly; that

     would be too easy.

“What did you mean, Cory, when you said that

no one else has been here? Do you think the world just stopped

while you went off to war? Or all Montana,

     anyway?”

He just looked at me, a way he had

     when I’d said something foolish. Didn’t

     argue or respond, just let me

               listen to myself. This time I shook my head,     

apologized, and said, “I do want to know,

     how it was.”

“I signed up

with two good friends, and guys were signing up

all everywhere, and girls too, as nurses,

WACs, all kinds of stuff. Hell, half the girls

I went to school with ended up in Billings

or in Butte to work in factories.

Some went to Boston, one to Washington.

But still, it feels that way, like everything

stood still, or else the whole damn place exploded.

It’s like—all that stuff, and all those people, are on

the other side of a wall.

I don’t know which is worse, to go back home

and find it all the same, blithely innocent,

like some nightmare land of peace, or find it

ripped and wrecked and raped and all the rest.”

“Hey, Cory. Come here, baby.”

I’d never called him that before.

All I could offer him, there in the restaurant,

     was my hand on the table. He took it and

               gripped hard.

You’d hear these stories: shell-shocked guy looks normal,

gets home in one piece, and goes to pieces,

bang. One guy turned his service revolver

on his family. They found him

barricaded behind the corner drugstore counter,

and when they dragged him out,

he kept yelling, “You bloody bastards!

You weren’t there, why weren’t you there!

You could have saved them! I was all by myself, I couldn’t do

a thing! You bastards, you rotten cowards—”

No, Cory said, that wasn’t it;

“I’m not afraid I’ll shoot my family.”

It was more as if he might be carrying

some infection with him, unawares,

the way the whites brought small-pox

and so made this new world

     too much like the old.

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