Author: Richard Schiffman
Location: New Mexico / New York City
Richard Schiffman is a writer who splits his time between New Mexico and New York City. He has published two nonfiction books, and has also worked as a freelance journalist and commentator for National Public Radio. His poetry is out, or slated for publication in The Atlanta Review, The New York Quarterly, 32 Poems, The Southern Poetry Review, Poetry East,
and The Potomac Review
, amongst other journals.
Memorial Day Excursion
It was lonesome like the moon, it was grayer than a gray day,
it was bigger than a tomb, it was wedged like a coffin in its quay.
We streamed in gaily through a moon-shaped bay
you could drive a tank through, or wheel a fighter plane,
mamas and papas and kids off from school.
An educational experience for the whole family.
There were five hundred-pound bombs on display,
there were nonstop videos of explosions.
We scrambled to the carrier deck, we ambled
over acres of steel plate, we quaffed soda pop
and wieners, we lounged in the helicopter gunships,
we posed hamming with the sailors under the bristling towers and turrets,
a high-tech wedding cake you wouldn't want to eat.
Welcome to the USS Wasp, LHD, number one ship in the fleet.
The tenth Navy vessel to bear that jaunty insect name.
Ten ships, ten wars-- you think we didn't use them?
We scampered down the ramp into the wasp's droning belly
past a Day-Glo mural of a ram's skull and a bulldog with laser eyes.
In the cavern of the well-deck we tried on the flak jackets
and the bug-eyed gas masks. The kids had a field day
scrambling over the fat tanks. They bobbed their heads through the hatches,
they swiveled the mounted machine guns, they hung like bats
from the black barrels of the missile launchers,
they cocked the bolt action rifles, they pulled the triggers. The rasp
of metal on metal was deafening in that enclosed space:
the sound the past makes as it ricochets
off the bulkhead of the future.