September 08, 2007


For years my father’s bag stashed in the car “boot”
leather worn raw, this side of suede,

packed and ready in case--flight suit,
polished boots, an instant combat kit

signed, sealed, to be delivered due east--
the border, the base, the last battle left.

How it hummed, the air, with imminent action,
our house under the flight path, weekend

war games, the enemy out there--
always expected and just within reach

through cross hairs and radar screen.
And though it seemed unique to our age,

apocalypse now--blackout, bombardier,
passage of flame (the use of stock photos

is strictly forbidden)--really, what’s different?
Just our hands on the switch? In the old

dream of empire, in late afternoon, the story
the child saint raced into, a covert host in his cloak,

is simply a case of street violence and the body
sent into the streets--stand-in and look-out--

a shape divested of meaning. And the blows
coming down until you see you have to forego it,

reason, the right explanation, plot whispering
Did you deliver? What can be reached?

—Jane Satterfield

Instant Combat Kit During the Cold War, personnel in airlift
squadrons stationed at Andrews Air Force Base were required to sustain
military preparedness even when off duty. In the event of a national
security threat requiring sudden mobilization, squadrons could be instantly
dispatched to an unnamed base at the edge of the “free world.”

Catholic schoolchildren are often taught stories (probably apocryphal)
of youthful martyrs who carried the Eucharist from one Christian community
to another in the days of the Roman Empire, meeting their death in the
streets as a result of their refusal to give over the emblem of their faith.
from Assignation at Vanishing Point (Elixir Press, 2003).
first appeared in Massachusetts Review.

Posted by dwaber at September 8, 2007 10:13 AM