by F.J. Bergmann[easy-media med=”7943″ mark=”gallery-oSefhb”]
I didn’t want to kill anything.
Everywhere cornfields were receding;
cage-like stud walls were going up,
huge mounds of gravelly clay
slumped next to the construction sites.
We tunneled through those mountains
like maggots riddling a cowpie.
The work crews left ladders on site,
set against the plywood subfloors
with open stairwells that dropped
three stories to the basements
where sandpiles cushioned our fall.
Only months before, our parents
had studied plans for backyard
bomb shelters and we had cowered
under our small desks during civil
defense drills, heads between
our knees. Kiss your ass goodbye.
We built traps in vacant lots, dug
pitfalls we covered artistically
with flimsy cardboard, dead grass
and dust. Meadowlarks and swallows
were memories, but the thirteen-lined
ground squirrels we called gophers
tunneled the half-baked lawns
and the war was on. A dog
and a boy with a baseball bat
whose brother (he proudly told us)
was fighting in Viet Nam
stood over the small holes
a garden hose was slowly filling,
waiting for half-drowned rodents
to emerge from submerged dens.
I wanted the gophers to live,
but didn’t speak or slash the hose,
kick away the dog, knock down
the boy and show him exactly
what a baseball bat could do.
I wanted to kill us all.

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