There is no path through water to your body.

You think, and know you've tried, to beat it down:
In the raceless pre-dawn August when the corn is high
You run to the navel of the world, six miles each way,
So that when the sun caps the corn-mist your exhalation
Envelopes a little cabin laid beside a farm-pond.

Here the captive captor is the corn pollen; other places
It is snow, or packing grease, or salt.

You lay in the road, on the faded center strip,
And wonder whether it will be a Cavalier or a Combine
Finding you, arms braided with snow-angel road burns,
Face bent up, a baptism of dust in your nostrils.

You try to explain this centered lifting,
This navel-stone centering,
To the boys at Famous Dave's. And they listen,
All twelve, breaking bread-pudding and beer. Midmouthful
You realize to what height the water has risen.

Stop speaking. (But only until you are alone.)

Promotions and Demotions

(For Agnew)

Measure your inculcation to this language
At the moment you begin to dream in it.

When the names for sand are tenfold what you knew before
And you can taste their orders and phyla.

When Julius Fili drains his cup at the Spring of Moses
And you lift ma rather than water to your lips.

When the colors of the canvas tents are caravan bright
And you lick the interior to capture threadborne moisture

Made in Halicarnassus prior.

Prior to Elvis, there is no word for him.
Prior to barbeque, a definite shortfall.

Your remedy,

Is to layer laughter over symbols. To fill the clarifying
Void with laughter tongueless,
               laughter vertiginous,
               a Babel Tower of laughter.

When they bet whether two of them will make Captain
Before you are busted to buck sergeant, laugh.

You will be first and trusted.


Translate Juvenal 14.59-95
Two copies by 11 April
Turn them in at Van Hise

Of mere being, ../.../..
The Corinth earth-salting

They scramble to get cable
The Majors and Colonels
Bored in their offices

NPR does a whopping business
You listen. It is good
To hear these things distantly:

Hither their crooked harps
And customs come. Your
Herdsman primitive, your clown

Sacraria circles a broadcast
Flame. What does it take
To live inside that light?

What does it take to be
The glassblower's breath?
I'll tell you: get sent.

Nic Fits / Quick Fixes

Your diplomat carries in his knapsack
A translation from the Siamese.

Having fallen into the canal,
The lords embark on experiments in the absurd --
Like performance art, if Warhol could only see
His fell paints would show their Day-Glo jealousy.

Tie knots in the ends of your trouser legs:
You may learn to float. Float and you may learn
To like your pantlessness. How many canals have come
And gone and been crosscut through older alluvial loams

In the regime changes of Babylon?

When you go under, there are two tricks --
Not to worry about the weight of the water birthing you
And to unbutton your load-bearing vest.


The unit arrives.

They are asleep in their busses
36 inches above the grounding spring.
Mechanics: all foreplay, no passion—
     enfilade fence-posts.

He struck his staff in Eyoon Moussa,
the Amish boy, that night dreaming of you
lost among the carillon reed-marshes
     and, somehow, Masada.

He tossed in his sleep and startled
To find you and your tribunal elders
Gilded rush-deep between the fork shadows of
     his Shaker-made chair.

He called out the numbers: JSLIST on hand,
CLS bags missing, personnel fills, pacing
Items. They shook him awake and told him
     he had spoken in tongues.



a Briton, who called himself Julius Fili, and had lost a sandal in the
rubble ruins that hoisted ballista and catapult, visited him, the boy,
to tell him of


the BUB: or BAM. Big Ass Meeting.
You think there is something eternal
To the report. The Sergeants Major speak
So you drop your pen. Not afraid,
Playing the game. Part of the fun
To find poetry in things they say.
Rangers schooled in swampwater sophistry
Lifting that longcut veil.


                              Archangels flood the walls below Masada
                    / Kermanshah.


When the last of the harvest came in
At least they called no more Pentecostal
Ahkbar's from their caves; Khost besieged

And the lashkar of darkness lined the ghetto
Hills around. Unlike Boston, no array
Of firefly campfires in the night

Shifting as the wind shifts and the heat
From the day-bleached desert lifts into
A spangled density. Who is this tattooed

On the breech of your palm? You have traveled
The hills and known the wells of the donkey paths
Where there are tubers. You have mapped a body

Of non-causes so that the chiefs and commanders
Lick the china of your bitter tea. What is this
Discoloration in the shape of a vase or a pigtail?

Why do you itch at it when the men before you turn
The cliff-trail at the head of the pass and are
Disapparated from view for a time? You sent the bear

Back over the mountain, but see how he scarred you
Poppy-land, sage as a dry streambed. All this in
A moment waiting for the executive officer. He will

Recommend you for the job, you know, because you share
The Templary of the White-Eyed Pashtun, a man who read
J. Prufrock aloud in the absent English market garden.

OC Call

Pouring whole milk in the rain,
It misses the bottleneck, paints blood patterns
On the fingernail hood of your sedan.

It is easy, almost fun, to pretend she is not there.
Perhaps it contributes to your OER. The Colonel's wife
Takes them fishing and returns with a collection
Of grasses and goosefeathers in the folds of her mannequin.

Haven't been fishing in 24 years, she says into the mouth
Of the battalion, filling them with a vestigial Dutch,
A conspiracy of architecture. There is no one above you but

He already talks in two languages, she says. He says to me
That if he just waters the ship's grave it will come back to life.
Isn't that neat? Two languages. And where is your wife

Chip, you say, that was the dog's name.

But Jackie looks at you right then, as if to correct you,
And you notice behind his hydrangea eyes, the red dot
Of Amarkantak's tomb. Above the caterer's carafes:
A velveteen Elvis.

You wonder if you've begun to mimic the shape of the void.

A Phone Call

So much physical memory, parking lots crossed at angles
In earlier times. Perhaps carried by a trombone section

Meter to meter home. Perhaps passed by a redhead who smiled
As you smiled in the second of a Spirograph gone.

With The Other in full bloom bandaging his burnt hands, you call her,
Not to disturb the stillness but join. There, in that ontological

Summary, you think it is listed. True? See, this is the last or first
Scansion. One or the same. You decide. Spoken in the only echelon

Without recall. What can you attach it to, that thing unsaid
But meant, that formless and shifting pass between lives, when there

Is a shaft of static electricity, like something sprayed
From a hose, and a thin shag light beneath the bedroom door?

Copyright © 2005 Benjamin Buchholz

Benjamin Buchholz is an Army Officer working and living in Wisconsin. Having spent the better part of three years preparing young soldiers to go to war, he will likely deploy to Iraq in the near future.

Though not looking forward to spending those months away from his two young sons he believes in the potential to truly serve the people of Iraq and thereby do some good in whatever limited form he may. Preparatory to this, Ben has set up an Iraqi-Arabic Course at UW-Madison for National Guardsmen so that they might educate themselves and not arrive in that country appallingly ignorant and unable to comprehend, communicate with, or support their culture.

These military matters are picking up their pace just at this most inconvenient time in Ben's writing career. He has work forthcoming at Big Bridge, Jack, Drunken Boat, and Harness. His third novelette will soon appear at FictionWise. He is putting the finishing touches on a full-length novel. For more info visit: