The last few months, my grandfather
answered only to the name
General Anthony Clement McAuliffe,
101st Airborne Division commander
during the Battle of the Bulge.
Nazis were endlessly besieging the nursing home.
He haunted the front lobby,
ducking the muzzle flash of passing chrome,
rallying brigades to repel visiting doctors,
telling the nurses they could stick
their Kraut applesauce up their Kraut asses.
General McAuliffe was real enough,
and widely remembered for replying “Nuts!”
to German demands for surrender.
So we guessed he might have
met the general, over there.
Maybe he’d fought in Belgium—
the massacre at Malmedy, the Wereth 11—
an awful lot had been going on.
We questioned old friends,
but we never found out for sure.
He rarely mentioned the war;
all he’d ever kept he black-bagged
in the attic, immaculately pressed,
looking hardly worn.
I suppose it’s never too early
to begin talking myself into
whatever person will confront
what I’ll no longer be capable of fending off.
Sometimes I lean towards Oprah,
reinforced by whooping housewives,
or Annie Oakley,
blowing holes in buffalo nickels.
Other times I think
I’d like to be Mae West,
embarrassing the attendants
rolling me to BINGO
with suggestive jests.
But on days when distant
seems to have crept a bit closer
since last I looked, I think it might
be wisest to end up Amelia Earhart
who, long after her final takeoff,
could still be glimpsed via a fiery, jeweled trail
arcing the vanishing point of sea and sky,
leaving no wreckage behind.
—from Rattle #32, Winter 2009