Yellow Mama Archives II

Charles Weld

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SERPENTINE LINE

 

by Charles Weld

 

 

As Thoreau surveyed, Moore relayed how the fall

before his men, digging sand in a hollow up the hill, 

had uncovered a parcel of snakes, knit loosely, a ball,

half-torpid, striped, and black together. The men killed

them all, then stretched their bodies out head to tail

in a line on the ground and measured it. Several

hundred feet, Moore said. The common practice when

such collections are found, Thoreau noted. The sum

of their lengths related repeatedly—passed on from

farmer to farmer. Numbers have a quality that often

degrades reality, mustering particulars into its army

and moving them through formation and drill until

they’ve lost their edge, that sharp intractability

that eludes orders of magnitude, sequence, and scale.

 

 

WILLIAM CALLEY’S APOLOGY

 

by Charles Weld

 

 

After reading about his words at the Columbus,

Kiwanis, I counted killers I’ve known, having to guess

at a few, a list longer than expected. A machine gun nest

blown up by a friend’s dad’s grenade. An ex-U.S.

army, Sunday school teacher who would digress

from his lesson to describe the pieces of human flesh

he’d seen, floating in the South Pacific. And, yes—

an uncle, good friend, colleague, clients who’d confess,

needing understanding. Closer, I pay my taxes

without protest, funding the next rampage. Like S.S.,

we lined up women and children and shot them into ditches

at My Lai. Maybe he spoke a word for each, maybe less—

a word for every three or four dead people, the address

brief, according to those who afterward spoke to the press.

 


STEVE J.

 

by Charles Weld

 

 

Jumping to the ground from the open door of a Huey,

Steve told me he counted one, two, three slowly,

having heard somewhere that someone was hit

every four seconds on average. Reason—he’d admit—

was one of Vietnam’s first casualties. Years later,

if they told him at AA that the sky was red,

he said he’d believe it in order to stay sober,

and not sink back into drugs and drink, winding up dead.

I turned to him often for advice. Falling in love

he said was like rocket fuel—good for the boost

it gave to push you through and above

relationship’s first frictions—if you weren’t seduced

by its power. A snare to beware of. This, while

he polished a customer’s fretboard carefully, his smile

making an attitude of gratitude look relatively easy.

Charles Weld’s poems have been collected in two chapbooks, Country I Would Settle In (Pudding House, 2004), and Who Cooks For You? (Kattywompus, 2012.), and in many small magazines such as Southern Poetry Review, Evansville Review, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, The Concord Saunterer, Friends JournalBlue Unicorn, Canary, etc. A collection, Seringo, will be published later this year by White Violet Press (Kelsay Books.) He’s worked as an administrator for a nonprofit agency that provides treatment for youth experiencing mental health challenges, and lives in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.

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