Early in the 1960s I declared to my draft board that I was a Conscientious Objector and they resisted my desire to change my draft status tooth and nail. Together we went through an arduous legal process that involved the FBI, the Justice Department, and much turmoil in my family and friends in Texas where I lived at the time. I eventually won and set out to do my two years of alternative service (to military service) as an orderly at the Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. As much as anything else, I think my decision was based on the death of my best friend from childhood, Jamie Dewar, who died in a car crash at sixteen. I have written numerous poems about this time in my life, including the one here.
When I caught my first trout, cleaned, cooked, and ate it with my father on a stream bank in Colorado, I remember fingering the lace of bones joining head to tail, that soft white tree upon which the fish's life In military school when it rained they showed us World War II training films: how to recognize syphilis, how to dig a proper foxhole, and how to be a sniper: which enemy when three are waling single file My long descent into trouble with family, friends, and my draft board began on that rainy afternoon as I watched the cross hairs of the sniper's rifle enclose each man's head and explode it. I could only imagine each man as someone like myself, a kid, his best stories unlived, still spread out ahead of him in that field, or hidden among the branches
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