Contents | October 2003
More on poetry from The Atlantic Monthly.
The Atlantic Monthly | October 2003
Hear the author read this poem (in RealAudio)
by Dick Allen
He was inducted out of God knows where,
and sent marching up and down the parade grounds
At night, in the barracks, he wept
into the dark of snoring men.
He looked like a fever, or some ragweed touched by sun,
or an elm with dark eyes.
Mail call found him sitting beside the flagpole,
cleaning his fingernails.
If you crossed him, he would cross you back
and mean nothing by it.
Where he went on leave was a secret
having something to do with pinewoods and racing cars.
He had no real appetite
except for potatoes, which he'd always fiercely hated.
The firing range fascinated him,
all that kneeling, all those silent targets.
When we sent him to war, he went without complaint
but came home no hero.
Private Grief, Private Grief, what are we to do with you?
"Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies."
Mustered out, he stepped into a barroom brawl,
then stepped back, unsmiling.
Private Grief, Private Grief,
I'll never believe you fought with all your heart.
Dick Allen's sixth collection, The Day Before: New Poems, was published this year.
Copyright © 2003 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; Octobr 2003; Private Grief; Volume 292, No. 3; 90.