Shaved-head, close anyway, too close to distinguish that head, mine, or rather private soldier government- issue mine on loan after drafted 1969 drafted purgatories and anguishes, go, not go, go, not go, not go, go, jail, not jail, go, from the ten-thousand, no one hundred-thousand other heads, all shave-headed. No way that close-cropped head, or those ten thousand, no, one hundred thousand others , would survive the Harvard Square (square is right), Village, burned-over Haight-Ashbury night as anything but soldier tourists looking at long-haired freaks smoking dope in some impromptu Kasbah or some vagrant common lawn.
But that wistful thought is so much ancient history, so much bad karma, ghost danced against ancient painted cavern-etched shamanic bad karmic night, as the certitude, the absolute certitude, after only three, hell one for truth but three, on more, half-humid, half ground frozen (and I know, know from close observation just minutes ago after having “done ten” that half frozen) southern winter days (Georgia, hell-bent segregated Georgia places like Albany and Augusta, if not Atlanta) that go, no go, jail, not jail was decided the wrong way and that life from here on in would get quirky (nice way to put it, right, put it just short of facing phantom firing squads).
Start. Four in the morning madness but this time not falling into too much to dream sweet good night but cursing some stoolie “orderlie” who has just kicked off my blanket cover and yelled, yelled if you can believe that, right in my ear that if I was not up before he turned his head to yell at some other shaved head across from my bunk that I would be “doing ten (or was it one hundred, or one thousand)” in front of the whole company of fellow raw recruits on some sweet red clay Georgia earth, frozen okay, when the sun came up. Naturally the trap was set as he could turn his ugly government-issue head bunk away before I could even uncover that frizzy green blanket and so I was to be parlayed, relayed, surveyed and displayed before a motley of bleary eyed raws and done. An example, a horribly example of slovenliness that would get some rolling hills hayseed Ohio farm boy too scared to say yessir or no sir, some Kentucky un-shoed hills and hollows (ya, I know hollas) toothless illiterate dragged from mother womb coal veins, or some jet black ebony angel New York City street corner boy caught up in the court system, some petty larceny count to his credit, and warned, judge-warned, into the service, killed for lack of speed. Yes, that go, no go thing went the wrong way, way wrong, as I sensed those phantom firing squads closing in.
At peek of light, no food in stomach, no eyes, no open eyes, and in bare tee-shirt, white government-issued and two sizes two big just then, I fall down to the earth, spitting mud-flecked red clay, spitting dust, spitting, spitting out the stars over Alabama (oops Georgia, all these southern red clays seem so very much the same, or would on further inspection) that portent no good, no earthy good. Cold, cold cold as only a day time hot winter place can be night cold.
And I do “ten.” And then that ten, or the cold red clay doing of that ten, started a mental civil war between one government-issued private soldier and one warring government. Of such incidents great wars, and great struggles against war, swarm the earth, although the latter less frequently than one would suspect. Or hope.
Then those DNA-etched righteous furies kick-assed with my brain, those old time grandmother Catholic Worker stop the goddam wars and stop them now (exactly quoting Irish “shawlie” grandma wisdom, or else) reared their pug ugly (ur-government-issued ugly) head. And that shave-headed (as if shave-headed-ness had exposed on its surface for all the world to see as if written out longhand all the quaint, if shadow, last night I had the strangest dream, stop the war madness covered up by long-haired no thoughts and no risks ancient thoughts) red clay foam-flecked private soldier dreamed of crusades and leading great crusades, and marching men back into barracks and locking doors against the killing fields. And arguing with sneer-snickering (remembering only no sir or yes sir) Ohio farm boys, Kentucky rednecks hell-bent on tunnel-rat-dom like some great cosmic chain held them together, and black as night New York City street-wise (well, half-wise)corner boys this-if this is not murder, if this is not to slay, then what is? Come and face the phantom firing squads too, come cry out to high heaven against the madness, the madness of men, and madnesses stopped by men, by little no no siring men.
The die is cast, not as usual truthfully cast, not pure warrior in the frozen ground red clay night, not massive warrior-king leading home swords turned into plowshare armies, but solitary avenging angel cast, but cast. Dreams of running away to elysian fields (or mudded Woodstock farm mires), dreams of lost love (of girls left behind and of secret betrayals), dreams of not doing this or that youth-desired thing keep rearing back and certain character flaws, certain wise guy, small town corner boy (unknown to black knight New York City corner boys all wide-eyed) know-it-all cut corners character flaws stream in the hot, humid, footsore march.
But in the end the drum beat beat his beat, and fate.
Wild dreams, senseless wild dreams follow, follow in succession, day and night. Time has no measure, no measure at all and calendars only form fear for burning red eyes. Angels rage at hell’s door to no avail. Rant, mere rant against the barb wired fix. Sweats, real human sweats, ever present sweats in small airless rooms. Rooms not picked by man, or fit. The days of rage, rage against the light, and then the glimmer of the light. Fame, maybe unearned nickel and dime fame, as poster boy for break-out soldiers crying against the high hellish anguished night and murders, murders called by their right name. Then phantom firing squads turn to dust, ashes really, and free.