It is New Year’s Eve
The bird bath is empty
And so is
All the birds are gone
Like old words to a song
I am sucking on
a Carta Blanca beer
Big swirly swigs start stars to spin
They align to lost Mexican moments
The Baja surf still pounds
with lovers, liars and poets
I drank Carta Blanca with all three
They are all gone now but still with me
Under spinning stars again we swim
And toast to another New Year’s Eve
Drunk on drunken class memories,
the reunion die-hards were all turning left.
Off to the all night diner for hot coffee and
more sappy sap stories to be said.
In the spontaneous spark
of a stolen searching glance, we
joined hands and without word or plan
we abruptly turned right… and ran.
Breaking free like escapees
we stripped our adolescent chains
and ran laughing into the tingly
electric air of a stormy hot August night.
With yesterday’s finger prints fresh on
our heals and tomorrow just over that black
horizon, we explored guiltless galaxies across
the milky way before the calamity of dawn.
Pulses of plasma imprinted our reflections
forever. Smooth sated faces and long supple
curves entwined eternally. Sweet strawberries
frozen in brilliant flashes of rare blue lightning.
The Sans Sousi surf pounded,
thundered and heaved. The
moment of now she whispered,
was now dancing on his sleeve.
He floundered as the rogue
wave of a blue butterfly kiss
capsized the past and he
became awash in the promise
of pollen from the bottom
of a rose garden abyss.
Caught in the roiling rip tide
of a young man’s mistake,
he lacked the will to escape as he
pulled perfumed petals from the
open blossom of a wild white rose.
Slowly, softly, one by one the
petals settled like sand dollars
scattered on a moon lit beach
as the surf’s surge reached its
peak. He tasted sweet golden
nectar, never before his treasure,
never before within his reach.
The future collapsed into a twisted
path amongst shifting tidal dunes.
The tainted fingers of a new dawn
blossomed brilliant scarlet red
as a wild Cherokee Rose shackled
him forever to the silent memory of
a flower’s soft velvety touch and
the addictive fragrance of freedom
inhaled deeply from a soft silky bed.
was an up and coming actor,
dark haired, brash and young.
He starred in a TV drama
on the Dick Powell Theater
where he walked off
the end of a diving board
in a garden party plunge.
with a drink in his hand,
to make a futile point
in a loosing argument.
A loosing argument
that he could not understand.
Pete and I passed a pint
of Old Crow back and forth
one grimaced swig after another
until the bottle was dead.
Now a useless empty vessel,
we set it to sail
into the next ripe road sign.
Dangerous curves up ahead.
Just days away
from graduation day,
the Old Crow seared our throat
and it seared our brain
as we drove Dad’s Karmann Ghia
reckless and fast
deep into the muted pain.
Laughing at the edge
while pushing away the flame.
The flame that awaited us
on the other side
from a fire we did not start
and from which
we could not hide.
The world was at war.
An escalating hot war
born from the war of ice.
A war of tumbling dominos
and generals rolling dice.
A war of body counts and
walls of hell called napalm.
A war hawk war of “we are
right and they are wrong”.
The evening national news
spewing lies and body bags
into our comfy living rooms.
“And that’s the way it is”
says Mr. Walter Cronkite
as we win the weekly body
count every Thursday night.
A meat cleaver of silence
from a war with no winner
served up on a platter of ice
for our nation’s family dinner.
The killer of friends and kin,
a national sucking wound,
now sucking us in.
Into the bloody black vortex
of choppers and doom.
Sucking the white blossoms
of our young generation
into an ever darkening tomb.
The tomb called South Viet Nam.
Courtesy of the “free world”
and our good ol’ Uncle Sam.
The draft board buzzards circle
like turkey vultures as the
Old Crow drives our frustration
into the 90 proof afternoon haze.
The growing frustration within us
of having no vote… of having no say.
We just could not understand
our country and our land.
The land of free speech.
The land of the Civil Rights Act.
The land of “one man, one vote”.
“That” land just seemed to not give a damn.
We smoke English Ovals
with the windows rolled down.
The buffeting hot wind of reality
rips at us with scary new sounds.
M16s, Hueys and screaming fighter jets.
All fueled by senseless endless rhetoric
spouting from Congressmen, Senators
and even our parents. All led
by our “Great Society” President.
The hot wind tears the black ashes
from of our manly cigarettes
revealing the angry red embers
hanging from our young lippy lips.
We inhale the blended blue smoke of death
as we apex the tarot card curves.
Curve after curve, card after card.
Faster and faster, tighter and tighter.
Nasty curves already scarred
with twisted black skid marks
and the dried crimson blood
of classmates before us.
The unlucky ones, the ageless ones.
The ones who were dealt the
random and indifferent 13 card.
From our spinning wheels of fortune
we blindly trust there are no oncoming
cars appearing in a frozen heart beat
from a banked blind curve or out
from the dark shadows hidden under
the arms of a wise old oak tree.
Especially a County Sheriff
out on a back road random troll.
Or way, way worse, the
dreaded black and white
of the State Highway Patrol.
Way out here in the middle
of our bearing-less crazy day.
Way out here in the middle
of our nowhere limbo land.
Way out here in our drunken
afternoon of adolescent abandon.
A pointless stupid day
of senseless thrills soused
in rebellious resignation.
Testing the slippery outer banks
of our guideless transformation.
A dangerous day spent naēvely balanced
on the razor’s edge of no tomorrow.
A hollow day filled with the
inescapable rolling thunder of war
from a darkening horizon
now setting upon us.
A day without peace.
A day without answers.
A day without resolution.
A day of feeling helpless and lost shared with a brother.
A day spent at the end of a slick diving board.
A day in a time that we just could not understand.
A day that could have easily gone a different way.
A day that I will always remember as
Epilogue: Fortunately, Pete and I survived that Crazy Sunday and safely graduated from high school as expected to our parents’ delight. During the following years, we also managed to avoid Vietnam. Listed below are 8 young men who did not. They were from my small home town of Morgan Hill, (& San Martin) Calif. (approx area pop. 5,000 in 1966). They were all killed in Vietnam. All their names appear on the Vietnam War Memorial, “The Wall”, in Washington, DC. All but one were fellow schoolmates of mine at Live Oak High School. I played football with Richard Garcia and Adrian Lopez. Most of them were drafted into military service and were killed before ever being able to vote.
MORGAN HILL, CALIFORNIA:
PFC JAMES MICHAEL (HITE) DE ABRE - Sept 30, 1946 to Oct 12, 1967 (Live Oak Class of 1964)
SSG RICHARD CLAUDE GARCIA - Oct 04, 1947 to May 03, 1969 (Live Oak Class of 1965)
CDR FREDERICK LEE HOLMES - Dec 19, 1936 to Dec 30, 1971 MIA (not a schoolmate)
LCPL ARNOLD LEE LEONARD Jr - June 23, 1947 to June 16, 1968 (Live Oak Class of 1965)
PFC JOHN NISHIMURA - May 08, 1946 to April 04, 1968 (Live Oak Class of 1964)
PFC RICHARD PEREZ - Aug 15, 1947 to Feb 09, 1968 (Live Oak Class of 1966)
SAN MARTIN, CALIFORNIA:
PFC ADRIAN SALOME LOPEZ March 6, 1948 - Feb 18, 1968 (Silver Star) (Live Oak Class of 1966)
PFC JIMMY LEE SHIELDS - May 10, 1948 - Nov 20, 1968 (Live Oak Class of 1967)
A proud James Hite returned to Live Oak High School during my senior year (1966) as a guest speaker. He spoke of his war experiences as a Green Beret fighting the Viet Cong in Vietnam. Listening to Jim’s stories, statements and answers to our questions helped convince me that the Vietnam war was a hopeless horrific bloody mess that needed to be avoided if at all possible. Jim was killed when he returned to Vietnam. He was the first of the 8 to be killed. We used to ride the school bus together before he graduated. He lived off of Watsonville Rd in the Hayes Valley. I often think of the life he and the others did not have as I drive by the exact spot where the school bus last dropped him off. Now, once a year, they park acres of expensive cars in the open field next to that spot for a big professional golf tournament where Tiger Woods is the main attraction. What a waste that war was. What a waste of life.
© Edward Ferri, Jr.
Biography: Edward Ferri, Jr. grew up on a "non profit" farm in the remote hills of California where "Bailing wire, gumption, and spit" were the "I-Apps" of the day. He is a graduate of SJSU and works as an mechanical engineer to supplement his poetry writing. He has been published in Eskimo Pie, Lucidity Poetry Journal and the Muddy River Poetry Review. He first realized the beauty of Denali in the rear view mirror. He was leaving to meet Carol and never returned.