The dog by the captain’s coffin

the dog by the captain’s coffin

it is time them heathen took my captain, 
yes him, 
my captain the commander, 
my every thing
my only thing
yes, in that coffin
you well-washed, scent-lost men.

in this wrong place, 
this hangar they bleached him of his death
before this surgeon skyless space.

they speak you are here
they speak you are there
and yet all about you is flown this

would that i could catch a scent, a mote, a cup of smoke
would that i could gather you with holy nets
would that you, in there, could be me in dirty air

if only in trade for a single breath, 
these washed i’d scatter like chicken-scat
them their flimsy flags their civilian salutes
their hero this, their supreme that.

god give me something from this marble floor
your shirt of mud, your boot of blood
leave these nobody people that never existed
whose scents mean, 
mean nothing to me
they a thin fog for the seeing through
their training poor

would that I raised my voice
the training was there
would that i had drawn windowed eyes to the shaking ground
but my voice broke in that thin air
before you up-seen, then carbine-down.

those scat-stink ghosts
flew faster than primer crack
like an atom of light inside night of black

my captain, 
my captain
spit the last of his tobacco in that lizard’s eyes

my captain, 
breathe unto me your spent-shell breath
look unto me with your extractor eyes.

my captain
yours was a heart contained in a canister of smoke
and when all around were doubt
upon each your child’s death
I and only I could see not, but scent
and remind you it was a sign of life, that pain
that upon me, strong me, you could pour out.

they save at hover,
but our radio against the rock with a round in its chest
and your tobacco breath all stop.
come the spoon-pop
and a promise of rest

it were a september song start to an empire day
that laid your chest down, that set your eyes aside, 
and i too needed rest, 
so i slept the trails of salt along your back.

when i awoke
the sky collapsing like cataract continents
your last scent i lost in that twister of diesel smoke.

a year before on that long, long jumpseat of a flight, i saw him write and he read to me:

“follow this, my final command, my final wish:
“burn me on a bier of wood from my father’s shotgun shack
“the bones of his broken back
“the name of every soldier left my command a broken glass
“at ten-thousand feet there is a bird that waits in a mountain pass
“sleep one night then follow every switchback
“inhale the best you can and drink from every weep
“find a table rock, lay me there, turn around and go
“let the winds that will for the where they already know.
“take jack my dog
“feed him when you can.

nazareth helm
cpt, usn

if only there were scent for me to follow they quit this room
if only i could know that table rock, that saddle gap, 
for would i lie me there
until i too turn to air
and join you in the smoke

jack, dog

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