Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Alfonzo Prepares to Go Over the Top

(Belleau Wood, 1917)

“A soldier waits until he’s called—then
moves ass and balls up, over,
tearing twigs and crushed faces,
swinging his bayonet like a pitchfork
and thinking anything’s better
than a trench, ratshit
and the tender hairs of chickweed.

A soldier is smoke
waiting for wind; he’s a long corridor
clanging to the back of a house
where a child sings
in its ruined nursery…
                                    and Beauty is the
gleam of my eye on this gunstock and my spit
drying on the blade of this knife
before it warms itself in the gut of a Kraut.
Mother, forgive me. Hear the leaves? I am
already memory.”

Credit


"Alfonzo Prepares to Go Over the Top," from Collected Poems 1974-2004," W.W. Norton, 2016. Originally published in American Smooth, W.W. Norton, 2004. Used with permission of the author.

Author


Rita Dove

The author of numerous collections of poetry, Rita Dove served as the US Poet Laureate from 1993 to 1995 and as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2005 to 2011.

Date Published: 2017-05-24

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/alfonzo-prepares-go-over-top