Mudlark No. 58 (2015)

A Bag of Ears

In the lobby of the post office in Granville, Ohio,
I run into a student of mine who survived two tours
in Vietnam—poisonous snakes, tigers, the pitfalls
of treacherous tropical terrain he told me once
that not even his worst nightmares could recreate.
We’re in line for stamps; the line is long, abominable,
all the way out the door, and he’s forgotten his wallet.
It’s the least I can do, buying the guy a sheet of Elvis
Presley commemorative stamps, but he thanks me.
Outside, a December snowfall has quieted the streets.
It occurs to me to thank him. For his service. He says,
“No one’s ever done that.” Folds the sheet of stamps
and puts it in his coat. Snow dusts his shoulders as if
gratuitous beauty is what follows mayhem and killing
in the service of a cause. I say, “How about a beer?”
We cross the street, dodging a UPS truck, the light
sewing brightness on the slush and tracks. Now
at the last swallow of his third Harp, boisterous
college kids passing the booth, in loud groups,
he blurts out, “A lot of us kept bags of ears.”
My student says it like he’s said It’s Ohio
or Isn’t it a gorgeous day, and I’ll spare you
what he says next. Oh, no, I won’t. I can’t.
All of us keep looking away from Horror,
letting young American men do such things
as if there was nothing to be done about it.
He says, “Not all the ears in the bag, Roy,
were adult ears, if you know what I mean.”
I imagine the light on the hilt of his knife.
I don’t want to, but I do, then pay the check.
And I change the subject to Elvis and what
a shit he was those last years, what a mess.
My student nods. Says, Great voice, though.

Roy Bentley | The Dark Knight, On His Day Off
Contents | Mudlark No. 58 (2015)