Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Mark Halliday's "Fort Brag"/Why Do "Git 'Er Done" and Vietnam almost rhyme?

Mark Halliday, coiner of "ultra talk" and one of its principal progenitors, wrote a poem some years ago that, as far as I can tell, has never been published--even though it has always made me laugh. Apropos of the question, "what would a New York School war resistance poem look like," "Fort Brag" takes on the peculiarly American discourse of hypermasculine cocky effectuation with great elan. Everyone has had a coach or teacher or boss or father who sounds like this. In a sense, it gets at what is one of this nation's gifts and banes--our boundless, and thus reckless, optimism in our own abilities to "git 'er done." Listen to Mark read "Fort Brag" and other poems at his John Carroll University appearance.

"FORT BRAG" by Mark Halliday

It was cold outside so we built a fort.
We hauled insulation on barges and camels
and we hoisted joists. Maybe the spanners would pop a strut,
maybe the G-men would call in a shrapnel jockey but
it was fourth down and goal to go
and no amount of raggin’ was going to fix the wagon
so we heaved one more time and Bonzo thudded over
and he tore up his thigh but we scored.
We put the numbers up where they can’t be jimmied off.
It was hot so we harnessed rivers to make ice
and packed up the cakes in hard cubes,
one squad per ten cubes, it was an all-day job
but what was was

and we knew that like we knew our own cashews
so when our biceps twanged like busted gut
we bent at the knees and took the stairs saying
“Watch the corner” and “Let me just shift my grip” and “Heuh.”
What we had to get was our ground beef
like what is chopped by the thick chopper at Foxie’s Deli
who knows to chop and charge because he has to support his thighs
that want new molecules like our own thighs
so we blew sweat off the tips of our noses and said “Heuh”
as we hunkered and yanked. Because

as explained we did have to get our ground beef
so we have yanked and pumped and piled things up at the fort.
If we have lots of piles at the fort, and we do,
it has been for the ground beef and that’s how it makes sense,
as Yogi Stengel once said “When the mudhen flies south
all the badger lips point north” – you hear what I’m saying,
you grasp the thrust of my remarks.

So thus and forthwith as a result we have this fort
such that nobody else gets in
but still we had better stack up some 500 more sandbags
just in case of the unforeseen eventuality
because inside we have some 500 packages of ground beef
punched into slots, and wouldn’t those squirmy Beagle Boys
from Shoshone Creek adore to get their mitts
on such burger materials? You better bet they would.
The situation explains itself.

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