Poetry by Jeremiah Driver
The Names I Can’t Remember And A Reason To Endure
He was from snow-capped hills of Colorado and I
might have liked him—if he had never spoke.
We were young men trying to learn how to kill,
shining boots every evening. He stood above me
telling me where he was from and I why
I should listen to him tell me why I was wrong.
The frenzy inside my head built and then I
was apologizing for hitting his big toe
with my boot-heel like a hammer.
He was from St. Louis, the city closest
to where I was from and I didn’t like him.
At the train station, we talked about the women
we had known and our favorite foods.
The Drill Sergeants called him Weapon Malfunction.
When I saw his huge Kevlar helmet dance like a monkey
above his thick brown framed standard issue glasses
and his eagerness to do anything that he was told,
I knew that he could only be called
He was from New York, tall with a thick build.
He always talked about killing and how clean
his shoes were. Once while we were standing
in line at the mess hall he peeled the flaking skin
off the sun burnt neck of a white guy from the south
who stood patiently as over his shoulder he heard
the word disgusting.
He was from Africa, a country that I don’t remember.
He was tall and thin, his arms moved
like vines dangling from a great tree, he was gracious,
kind and quiet. He was my first friend with color.
He was always in trouble for politely telling
the Drill Sergeants when their logic failed.
Once after he was punished we sat together
on the side of a road while the heat from a black-top
road ate its way through the heels of our boots
seeking a truth we didn’t know we held.
I told him things didn’t have to make sense.
He was from Knoxville Tennessee and good at everything.
The Drill Sergeants called him Head, because his head
was nearly as wide as his shoulders. At the M-60 range,
while he was trying to qualify, they talked about how dirty
a person would have to be to pee in a shower
with ten other men. Head lay in the prone position
calculating his aim before he fired the massive weapon
while the Drill Sergeants talked about a shower in Tennessee
where Head’s mother and sister stood in pee.
He was fast, as fast as anyone that I have ever met.
He ran two miles in under eight minutes. I ran
one mile in nearly nine. I asked him why
he didn’t feel pain when he ran. He said when he ran
all he felt was pain.
Had a moth seeking shelter found moisture in the dark?
_________ Did that whisper of dust that lends itself to flight
_________________ stick, matted to what was once moist—
_________________ tongue or cheek?
I do not know. I did not look into the dark
of that supine phlegmatic pit.
you are sand in my hand sifting
through uncrested cracks.
a shadow runs to the sun
hoping for a truth
as simple as lips
the man in the street
is sweeping away the rain
i knew you beyond name,
a silent passing without
aguish. a grape of
anguish. my tears
were heavy and real.
when i told her everything
that i had been through,
she asked, How can I bring my child
into this? i had no answer. i can only hope
that the world rotates without reason.
Jeremiah Driver is an MFA candidate in writing at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. He is the Assistant Poetry Editor for LUMINA and teaches in Queens, New York. He grew up in Illinois where he worked and graduated from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Featured Image photograph by E.B. Bartels, www.ebbartels.com.