Greg McBride: "Crossing Over"




            above the Pacific, January 1969



Rows ahead, rows behind, soldiers hunch

into themselves in the ghostly quiet

of this chartered, carpeted 707,

jungle fatigues bloused at boot tops. 

Ventilation panels flank our ankles

for Southeast Asian heat to come. 

We are dog-tagged numbers dangling

on beaded chains, but the Army covers

all bets: blood type, religion, metallic name.

I'm a child beside an infantry captain

whose silence sprawls over the armrest

into my space. He fumbles a passel

of photos, shuffles a wife, blond kids. 

He's a mountain, sloped, bucolic, stoic. 

Our porthole's a tondo of black sky, stars. 

I conjure my mother, father, sister,

a paddy in which to hide. The stewardess

attends us tenderly, and as she leans in

to ask what I'd like, her hair, so clean,

falls toward her lips, and one fine strand

shines free. She slips away through jet-whine,

enfleshing what feels like abandonment.



Greg McBride's collection of poems, Porthole, won the 2012 Liam Rector First Book Prize for Poetry.  His work appears in Boulevard, Gettysburg Review, Harvard Review Online, Hollins Critic, River Styx, Salmagundi, and Southern Poetry Review. His awards include the 2008 Boulevard Emerging Poet prize and an individual artist grant in poetry from the Maryland State Arts Council. A Vietnam veteran and retired lawyer, McBride edits The Innisfree Poetry Journal.