USMC & US Army
Calvin Luther Martin, PhD
January 2, 2024
Downtown Artist Cellar (DAC), January 10, 2024:
410 E. Main St., Malone NY, from 7:00 to 8:30 PM. Admission is free. Click the button to read about DAC.
Whose Mouth Do I Speak with?
I can remember my father bringing home spruce gum.
He worked in the woods and filled his pockets
with golden chunks of pitch.
For his children
he provided this special sacrament
and we’d gather at this feet, around his legs,
bumping his lunchbox, and his empty thermos rattled inside.
Our skin would stick to Daddy’s gluey clothing
and we’d smell like Mumma’s Pine Sol.
We had no money for store bought gum
but that’s all right.
The spruce gum
was so close to chewing amber
as though in our mouths we held the eyes of Coyote
and how many other children had fathers
that placed on their innocent, anxious tongue
the blood of tree.
We wanted the war to be over
I come with my clarinet and AK slung over my left shoulder, because, my clarinet reminds me of humanity like that wedding dance I played at Berde’s, who is now screaming orders, smoking a cigarette, and battle stressed. Young men commanding causes. All I wanted was a note or two of somewhere else back home, tortillas, warm grilled, and slow cooked chicken after a long workday in plantations. America provides weapons, clarinets, and jazz. This reeded escape squawks breath. So easily we could have been picked off by snipers in overwatch from distant rooftops. All I wanted was to bring our minds back, one fragment at a time. It was time to be finished and go home to farming. But Berde kept fighting. Even now, every night—he’s still fighting, still in it. The tension in his flesh across the bridge of his nose and cheekbones remains tight with direction and fear that the war might be over. Or perhaps, he recognizes his own opus, his own measure of distinctness, the frenetic punctuation a bullet—seconds into scores—repeats his battles, his skirmishes—something to die for or a song to honor innocence sacrificed. I wanted to play that clarinet and grip that beauty of soft sounds clicking chrome keys, muffled by the cork pads’ pressed hush. This melody swirls a history of love, love of war, love of country, your land, your wife, mother, father, brother, sister. This melody is this breath, one whole note, we wanted to end what would never end.