Because I worked over night shifts Saturday and Sunday and yesterday I also had church in the morning and a visit to my youngest daughter Maureen’s new digs across McHenry County in Richmond in the evening, I was unable to complete the tenth and final post in my memoir series about my experiences with the Draft and Justice systems during the Vietnam War era. A guy has got to grab some Zees sometime.
If you have been waiting with bated breath for to see how that saga played, tune in again tomorrow same time, same place.
In lieu of Rain Delay Theater, I’ll give you a preview in the form a poem I wrote several years—decades actually—later. It got included in my 2004 Skinner House Books collection We Build Temples in the Heart by the skin of its teeth. My esteemed editor reminded me that the book was being issued as part of the venerable Meditation Manual series. She didn’t feel that this little slice of autobiographical verse, was in anyway enlightening or inspiring to readers. In the end, I won the argument about this one because we had run-out of alternatives from my limited production and it was needed to fill a page or two. Now that’s a ringing endorsement.
Here it is with some editing from the published version.
Oh, how I yearned for
Tom Joad’s bright orange boots
that clear yellow morning
when they opened the door
and I walked across the clipped lawn
to await the bus to town.
They gave me plastic pimp shoes,
stacked heels, two toned brown and black,
and light green polyester slacks,
a clinging rayon shirt,
and the cast off jacket half
of a sky blue leisure suit
stitched white with pendulous collar
and buttons the size of half dollars.
I had begged them for my work boots,
sturdy black, laced tight to the shin,
surplus GI hand-me-downs for cons.
Look, I said, I’m a factory hand,
I’ll need these as a former felon
to become a useful citizen again,
but they shook their heads
and handed me those
dime store disco booties.
Through two airports I hobbled
on blistered, bleeding feet
until at the far end of a sizzling
stretch of O’Hare black to,
safe at last in Cecilia’s Bug,
I chucked those damn shoes,
as useless and painful as
half stricken fetters,
into the first wire basket we found.
Next—Coming Home and After.
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