Saturday, January 13, 2007

Rite of Passage

As the guests arrive at my son's party
they gather in the living room--
short men, men in first grade
with smooth jaws and chins.
Hands in pockets, they stand around
jostling, jockeying for place, small fights
breaking out and calming. One says to another
How old are you? Six. I'm seven. So?
They eye each other, seeing themselves
tiny in the other's pupils. They clear their
throats a lot, a room of small bankers,
they fold their arms and frown. I could beat you
a seven says to a six,
the dark cake, round and heavy as a
turret, behind them on the table. My son,
freckles like specks of nutmeg on his cheeks,
chest narrow as the balsa keel of a
model boat, long hands
cool and thin as the day they guided him
out of me, speaks up as a host
for the sake of the group.
We could easily kill a two-year old,
he says in his clear voice. The other
men agree, they clear their throats
like Generals, they relax and get down to
playing war, celebrating my son's life.

By Sharon Olds
from "The Dead and the Living", published by Knopf, 1986

How early we learn about war. About how to feed the war machine, greasing the wheels with blood, prove we are men, get money for college (yeah, right). I don't want to feed my son to the war machine. I will not! I pray for all those in the mouth of the machine......may they come to live in a safe place.


Suzy said...

I wonder, do the anti-war parents whose children enlist in the military, as a rule, actively attempt to discourage them from doing so? I honestly don't know. I know I would, I'd be as obnoxious, bossy and overbearing as I could possibly be about it. I'd definitely play the mother card.

poodledoc said...

Yeah, I hear ya'. I'm playing the "Dad Card" right now. T and I talk about this stuff, like being a CO, often. Now, watch him join the Young Republicans. The little rebel.......

In response to your question, I do recall a Vietnam vet I know who told me that when "anit-war" parents sons were thinking of enlisting, they'd call him up and he'd come over with his "album". He made it clear that the recruiters don't bring this stuff into the highschools. Surprised?