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Way Out

I’ve been teaching high school for a while now.   Many of my students come from “inner-city” households, and all that entails.  Their lives are much different than how many of us grew up.  Sad to say, but I’ve pretty much heard it all from them.  Their choices are limited, and certain segments of our society know that.  A few years ago, one of my students came back to school after he graduated.  He stood in front of a table with two other young men with impeccable posture dressed in olive green, a new member of the aforementioned society.  Despite one’s beliefs, these people are legally just as entitled to “recruit” on campus, as the Lutherans in their short sleeve shirts and cheap ties handing out pocket-sized orange bibles from the sidewalk in front of the school.  I wrote a poem epitomizing the situation.

It was originally published at the link below.  This one’s for you Manny…

 

En(d)list

 
“My father’s in the army. He wants me to join. But I can’t work for that corporation.”
Lloyd Dobbler- Say Anything

Manny’s on leave from the Army
Says he’s gonna’ see the world
Germany, France, West Virginia
Says it’s easy and makes ya’ buff
Says he’s got Thursdays off
and he’s havin’ fun
Says he no longer has to worry
about drive-bys in the night
and eses on the corner that fight
Says he’s done writin’ essays in class
worrying about whether or not he’ll pass
cause he’s gonna’ be sergeant first-class
Says he’s tired of terrible teachers
who were first class dicks
stupid pricks
couldn’t think of anything else to pursue
Says no one can tell him what to do
and, and,
and FUCK UNIFORMS
he looks better in green than his whole platoon
He is free to be
‘cause Manny’s in the Army now.
 

http://verdadmagazine.org/vol3/poetry/romo.html

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About Daniel Romo

Author of When Kerosene's Involved (Mojave River Press, 2014) and Romancing Gravity (Silver Birch Press, 2013). I'm partial to prose poems. Alliteration. And fragments.

16 responses »

  1. Excellent. I’ll post it tomorrow or the day after. And I’ll help Greg promote by embedding his links. This will be one cool post.

    Reply
  2. aren’t they?
    I’ll shoot him a message…

    Reply
  3. This is one powerful piece of writing.

    But, it makes me wonder. We sit back and ask questions about how they don’t see the body bag when signing those papers…when they have already seen death, up close and personal.

    How many of these young men and women make to their 20’s without a record? Without some hope? This is an honest and honorable way out in my view.

    There is no shame in putting ones life on the line and taking the chance of dying. Except in this case it would be for something better, something greater than the cheapness of life they came from.

    I am impressed with this poem. I am likewise impressed in how it made me think. That’s a heck of a combination.

    Reply
    • I’m thankful you like the poem Mark, and it made you think. And there is honor in serving. But I’ve seen too many young people not receive what they thought they signed up for. And in the end, they have a sense of, “Okay, now what? I’m back to square one.” Ya’ know?

      Reply
      • yeah, I know.
        and it’s the way they lie to them and make them think it’s the only way to make something of themselves…I’ve seen too many good kids swallowed up whole.

        hey–that’s not why I came! your poem on gloom cupboard makes me think of a friend of mine. He does these ‘art cars…’ if you’ve heard of that? this is his photostream–some of his pics look like your poem!

        http://www.flickr.com/photos/thatcar/collections/72157606596769711/

      • Wow Angie! Those pics are epic. Can you ask him if I can use one for a future post? They would go perfectly with one of the poems.

      • hey–just heard from Greg. (Oh, his name is greg phelps, btw. we went to high school together 150 years ago…)

        he loves the idea!! he said he’s been thinking about doing a book of the photos to promote the cars, but maybe a photo/poem thing would be even better. anyway–he’s cool with it as long as you credit him and link to his flickr page. (and he says he wants a cut if you sell anything…)

        anyway–don’t know if you fb or not but if you do, here’s greg. he said he’d stop over here and check out your stuff.

        http://www.facebook.com/people/Greg-Phelps/528383469

  4. hey–I like this one, too. I like your style.

    you captured that sad swagger pretty well.
    they don’t see the body bags when they’re signing those papers, do they?

    Reply
  5. One more thing…I really, really like your poems in Gloom Cupboard!

    Reply
    • Thanks! Those are two I submitted as part of my ten pages in my grad school portfolio. Cross your fingers. The doll one was actually based off a true setting.

      Reply
  6. PS: I did some poets-in-the-schools work in a similar area. Those kids have amazing stories to tell.

    Reply
    • Even if one has never heard of many cities in CA, I’m quite sure they’ve heard of Compton. I taught there my first two years.

      Reply
  7. This captures the scene so well. I can picture that boy, his posturing, his voice.

    On the one hand, the army is a viable alternative, and free, on the other, when you ahve no other choice, and with the way the world is today, it is pretty sad that a sure ticket to a war zone is the only way out. On the other hand, sounds like his home was a warzone. So much is unfair…

    Can you tell I’m on the fence? My father is a veteran, my cousins and uncles…I grew up in a very pro-America town. And now I am an artist in a very anti-war town…

    Reply

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