It Moves in the Name of the Slain

Accepted by; Wingless Dreamer Publisher (5-18-22) to be published in the upcoming Poetry Anthology, “War Scars in my Heart.”

By: Billy Malanga

_________________________________________

The main sequence star swells

like a bright yellow balloon over villages and dry dunes.

It stands early at attention,

above clever beasts that advance in darkness.

It moves quickly, like surging waves

after the blast of a thousand pound bomb.

It wakes the wounded and heats up

the spider’s claw to spin webs over the dead.

It releases souls like lambent moths

caught on a silk thread.

It advances on waves of gold,

invades the land to trace the bodies

that collapse in sand.

It gallops with brilliant fire

and aligns a spotter’s eye, behind the bottles.

It acquaints crosshairs with soft tan temples

and rests on a Light Fifty rail.

Its bold knuckles press blood from the stripes

of a trouser seam and shines on silver and gold crosses.

It advances, keeping its heels

towards the blast to save its enflamed brains

from leaking past.

It must never forget that evil hunts with steel teeth,

loads lead into clips rinsed by grease and rain.

It shall go forth to seal the Generals Orders

and carry on through the plain.

Its dreams fly home on purple hearts

land on giggling children soaked in love.

It crawls like a straw tinted Death stalker

with redbone insanity,

venom – it can’t get rid of.

Its mind never forgets the smell of fire,

the unspeakable cost of freedom.

It moves in the name of the slain.

Hospice

(Note: Hospice accepted for publishing under my name William Marshall by Helix Magazine, Central Connecticut State University, September 2018 issue.)

I could see the battle raging

inside you. Your face, yellow

and drained. They brought

the good stuff — morphine.

 

It was a one-way flight,

a few months of confused guests.

No turning back, inside out

day after day, slurping red tea

with Kubler-Ross

on the ceiling and you, dreaming

of a third stage bargain

with a horrible disease.

 

Being counseled by your wife,

this was not a dream.

You slump, fading in front

of a familiar hedgerow

that you used to cut,

and paint your gin olives

green at dusk.

 

Your head lowered

to the ghost behind the wall

of books you collected

over forty-four years,

each one said goodbye.

Cheap Trophies

(Note: Cheap Trophies was accepted for publishing in “Here Comes Everyone,” at Silhouette Press. http://silhouettepress.co.uk/here-comes-everyone/, on October 3, 2017.)

A program infused with unfinished parents who benefit from recognition they never received, live through their progeny. “Wow, he’s really fast aye Joe, aren’t you proud of him this year?” What a shrewd combination of organizational Machiavellianism. Don’t upset the apple cart of taxpayers in the coliseum. Level the playing field for little Johnnies and Jennies. Everyone plays the same amount of time; play well with others regardless of accomplishment. Breathing, sleeping, and stuffing their faces with pizza and ice cream qualifies them for triumphant nobility, each participant equal.

The expected outcome measures: good sportsmanship, teamwork, and lots of hedonism. Eager parents and family members jump to their feet yelling and clapping like they scored a damn touchdown themselves, like they own the joint. They smile at each other in the stands tugging at the front of their jersey, smiling, taking selfies with their son/daughter to show what remarkable natives they are. It becomes a family affair.

Do we overvalue our abilities? It turns into a breathtaking delusional clap-fuck jamboree. The Todd Marinovich story illustrates the situation all too well. His obsessed father and he eventually crashed and burned in front of the sporting world. Recognition through offspring, young players are acknowledged for being contestants, they are lied to, coerced into believing they are marvelous and worthy of the goods, worthy of hardware, when all are not. Something given not earned, someone they may never ever become, and the few talented enough to get things done, sit idle staring at cheap aluminum alloy trophies. The weakest link pulls up the rear like an anchor dangling at sea. I remember my Marine DI yelling, “You are only as quick as your slowest rifleman in this God damn platoon. That piece of shit will drag the unit down into the depths of hell and get us all killed.”

We reward participants for being malfunctions, for showing up with nice grins. “Just tell me coach, please,” urgently, as my plastic mouthpiece dangles with blood and saliva. Tell me the truth; tell me now so I can quit wasting time and expensive tape! Tell me so I can move on to Art History or Classic Philosophy, or English Literature, or something that I am passionate about spending my one precious life doing. Tell me I am nothing, tell my parents, tell the team I am too small, tell me I can’t tackle for shit, tell me I have heavy ankles that no amount of training will develop without a complete reincarnation. Tell me I am not good enough, I am weak, or run-of-the-mill, or whatever the fuck, but don’t put me in the same container with the whole team, with the same handling and credit when there are exceptional ones out there. Outstanding ones with bones and ligaments that strike the turf in perfect harmony like piano keys hitting fine-tuned strings, with hands that make love to a pigskin as it touches their fingers after a post route, or like deer that glide over barbwire fences in a dark snowy wood. Exceptional ones that move like thoroughbreds with sinews and muscles intermingling with the gods, with eyes that respond as swift as an eagle, and the roughness of a proven warrior. Expose the obvious, for their future’s sake, not for the expectations of a group of whiners. Listen carefully coach, if you don’t they will look back in twenty years with tears in their eyes because of the lies. The process misrepresents and interrupts mental development of the young player. It creates an erroneous paradise, lost in translation, pointing towards a selfish empire where mythical idols are devoted and lifted up high on shoulders, high above the coliseum. Taking part in sacrifice does not equate to being an expert gunner. The true definition sits idle at the base of the mountain, waiting to be discovered by the few who are willing to pay the high price. A systemic sequence based on Sisyphean struggle. Character traits do not show up with fuzzy blankets and warm milk one sunny day.

My coach in college used to growl at the end of each practice, “Men, the top eleven athletes will be on my field at any given time and place, if you don’t like it, get the hell out.” Fresh cut grass, sweaty durable young men breathing as labored as quarter horses, and the gritty odor lingering behind the steel bars of my face mask like Dostoyevsky in that Siberian prison. There was always someone at your door, starving and hungry like the wolf. Who in the hell ever said the process is emotionally and physically free of pain or disappointment. Developmental authority comes with a cost. Cognitive and physical anguish makes things come alive. Achievement in youth sports is not for everyone. There is no clear-cut path to pure enlightenment. The risks, wrecks, deaths, bruises, moans, losses, smiles, and broken bones, prove how powerful the playing field can be.

Each practice session or game is structurally designed to place a probe in the mind of the player, to find something out about the player’s wiring, about the true level of character from the coaches’ viewpoint, not the parents. For the most part, fathers/mothers act as though their Johnny/Jenny should be detached from all emotional pain, shame, and suffering. Under competitive pressure, some explode with glory and others fall on their sword. The glaring truth is that diamonds are made over long periods of time by pressure. A mixed stew of tough circumstances, defeats, conquests, playing time, second stringers, scrap heaps, frustration, joy, and fellowship is part of the package. Perhaps when they are 50, holding a glass of bourbon in one fist, and that cheap ass two-dollar trophy in the other, they will think about their own participation story, about the worth of those cheap gestures. How it felt to be given something for just being there. They will think about how mediocrity whirled around them, how it provoked them, how life is not fair, and never will be. Don’t tell them lies.

The Lips Know Heat Comes From Fire

(Note: The Lips Know Heat Comes From Fire was accepted for publishing on 9-23-17 by Sheila-Na-Gig poetry journal.

 

The lips know heat comes from fire,

deep within the vein. Inflamed cinders spin;

fireflies swirl on nightfall’s desire.

Branded flesh and needs conspire,

pounding hearts want a firing pin.

The lips know heat comes from fire.

Barbed wire won’t stop smoking gunfire.

Pull; pull your pin, until the carillon rings.

Fireflies swirl on nightfall’s desire.

It’s the burning that takes you higher.

Soldiers with wings memorize these things.

The lips know heat comes from fire.

Blisters triggered from madness transpire,

when love’s red siren falls worshiping.

Fireflies swirl on nightfall’s desire.

Bright stars announce and the heavens admire

those who don’t hide sparks under the skin.

The lips know heat comes from fire.

Fireflies swirl on nightfall’s desire.

Plastic Flowers

(Note: Plastic Flowers was accepted for publishing on 9-23-17 in Sheila-Na-Gig online poetry journal.)

If I am broken, I did it.

If my world is burning

around me, I lit the match.

If I got squared away,

I cleaned it up.

If you’re looking for me

to help you fix yourself

forget it. I would need a month

to recover from the smell

of bullshit and bleach.

Blame your parents,

blame your job,

blame your siblings,

blame your spouse,

I’ve done that too.

Only plastic flowers

stay peacock blue.

Wildcats in the Cave

(Note: Wildcats in the Cave was published on 8-21-17 at https://steemit.com/@whiteliquor, a literary journal.)

I heard bickering coming from the basement,

about not wanting to go to school, about

responsibility, test scores, endless self doubt,

and the oncoming storm of eighteen.

Then, my wife’s battle scream from

the Neolithic edge of the cave.

A shriek so wild and prehistoric, it came

from deep inside her ancient warm bloodedness.

Mother and kitten marking pieces of territorial

highland and mother not backing down.

It made the dog whine and me spill my coffee.

It reminded me of our basic instinctual leftovers

that have lingered for thousands of years.

If she was going down into the dirt, she was giving

her the whole deal, eye to eye, ears back, and

flea claws out.

My wife roared that morning for the ultimate good

of the kitten. She left her biogenetic scent through

her claws like two steel smoking revolvers.

Hell, there was plenty of food in the den

but, this was bigger than habitation. This was

hardwired wildcat development that has carried us

out of Mongolian caves and across the snow

packed mountains by the neck.

It leaped from her sharp teeth and into the face

of humanity, downstairs where spiders and pipes

move things around.

Mother wildcat got things right with her kitten.

 

Raised by Wolves

(Note: “Raised by Wolves” was published in Hellen Literary on line journal, Issue 10, 2019.)

There is a wolf at the base of my brain. Pausing, sniffing nose up,

picking things out of the remote sweltering landscape of ancient red rock

like a machine. It howls in the exposed barbed ether of cool dark gaps,

well arranged, spike toothed. It holds me.

Lupine phantom fangs grip my neck like a mother carries her young.

It walks inside a bloodshot abyss, under red cliffs, where it hides and licks

blood from behind my eyes. Its awareness extends beyond fur dark gray.

Sunrise is always most brilliant when it finds its way through red crevices.

I dream of bright yellow and green rays of soft light chasing me,

all the way down into the fractured running stream, where depraved

juniper tears my flesh.

Both of my hands circle and dot the sandy floor, where white water

once ran wild. Mad rocks plunge nearby, falling when they have had enough.

They slink and lay motionless below in fortified heaps. Blistering inflamed

dust dances with coiled devils. They can’t see or hear me.

I feel a clamping pain on my neck. Polished sharp incisors and soft fur

neatly tucked beneath a starched white collar. One generation teaches

the next. Up ahead, my invisible scars rest in a shaded gully where a lonely red winged black bird sings to my red wilderness.

My Aporia

(Note: My Aporia was published on 8-21-17 at https://steemit.com/@whiteliquor, on line literary journal.)

I drifted inside myself

on a dark Alabama trail,

Vibram soles munching dead leaves,

my aching skeleton. I felt alive.

Then, something struck the side of my leg.

Two hypodermic needles from the roof

a snake’s mouth punched holes in me.

No rattles or warning shots,

just eyeballs snapping wide open

and voltage running through my veins

like wild horses. I never saw the hit coming.

You pulled both triggers at once

and doubled the recoil.

Your choice to go in wet instead of

bone dry was costly to you and I.

 

I noticed a Mississippi Kite with black

under wings circling above and your

slithering forked tongue gathering particles

of reality. Your readiness inspired me.

It was like you were savoring

my red fear. You were coiled,

I was exposed, standing at the edge

of a shallow grave. I knew you

would slither back into the wild pines

to reload, you had a habit of doing that.

Antivenin sat cold still on forty-five miles

of indifference. Numbness and sweat

filtered my opinions about the world.

This was no place for bumper stickers.

This was my aporia.

Teufel Hunden (Devil Dogs 1918)

(Note: Teufel Hunden [Devil Dogs 1918] was accepted for publication on August 12, 2017, at Claudius Speaks – on line literary journal. https://claudiusspeaks.com/)

 

Let us go like Marines to that distant June

where they chambered their well oiled Springfield guns

and punched lead holes in German souls.

 

Squeeze, squeeze those fat cathedral kings

stuff them back into dark glasses of Matrona champagne

and eat their battle sausage with crackers and cheese.

 

Let us plunge our decisive wrists deep

in Cezanne’s muddy banks near the river Marne

look close, fragments of tilled bone return each year.

 

Into its shattered square mile of blasted trees

and stand waist high in its blood stained pits

with earth worms that creep.

 

Let us answer the call where thousands died

by exploding bones of their own kind

gently touch the tempered paintbrush of the devil.

 

Chew, chew pink poppy snuff in scraggy lines of loss

among the Star of David and silent white cross

that still stands in dancing wheat.

 

Let us go like Devil Dogs and feel the glow of the torch

that burned away the nights in fields of golden grain

where the wind took its last calm breath.

 

Where young men dreamed of a lover’s silken head

and watched the zeppelin drift over the dead

of Belleau Wood.

Signal Upon My Death

(Note: “Signal Upon My Death,” was accepted for publishing on 7-24-2017, by New Southerner Literary Magazine – http://www.newsoutherner.com/)

 

Don’t dress me up

in a suit strapped.

Tense.

A costume for worms

in rotting pine.

Makes no sense.

My lips know heat

comes from clash.

Let my bones collapse

into the oven fire

then reach for the handle

and pull the wire

so my red embers

can take flight

like fireflies returning

to the dark night.

If I have a choice

of a slouching funeral

or a white hot fire

I choose the fire.

Always choose the fire.