Printer Friendly

Tunnel rats.

With flashlight, knife and .45, bravado deserted skirmishes ago, I drop into what could become my grave, scorpions, snakes, booby traps, the enemy armed and crouched in a coil of darkness, fear forcing me forward on my knees in the mud through a labyrinth like the mind, a thousand dangers met a thousand times. What lurks there? There? Waiting to bloom in the light I carry, face me and die.

I am a rodent the enemy cannot kill and eat, but there is a certain cruel kinship that I recognize and hate even as hissing, we make deadly embrace, eyes wide, never more awake, knife in fist, I meet my hunched nightmare, my mirror twin face to face, kill him and kill my hateful self. Sometimes there are several of the enemy sleeping, small emaciated murderers, women, infants, sometimes they are a whole world underground, snipers, a meager yet effective army, and we are harried, haunted until our nerve snaps.

There is no real way up or out of darkness, no real way back through constricted caverns clotted with loudening fearfulness, fouled, filthy, crawling toward light, I am reaching for light in a dream, whatever time has passed as my body thickens in middle age, I sweat and shoot straight up, Fowler's position in a hospital bed, dull-eyed to whatever the white-clad apparitions want of me, would have me do, as they try to get in and I try to get out of my head.

What noise is that? There? The sound of a clip being fed into the high-tech death metal we held in our hands? The clank of old-fashioned bed pans, the thick, harsh sound the breath makes, the eerie sounds of the life support machines that sustain death? Or just the click click of low hard heels on the ward floor as the dyspeptic charge nurse comes to see what the matter is? No matter, I think as I wash and put my life on, men who helped me through are dead or huddled in corrugated boxes on vacant lots, or sleeping days on grates in front of officious public buildings as passers-by cluck about the stock market or the worsening situation in the middle east, and some, I guess, are much like myself. Sometimes nothing is so dark as the light of day. I knot my tie and lift the length of it under the knot and hang myself in the mirror each morning before I go to work.
COPYRIGHT 1993 African American Review
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Section 3: Sayings, Sermons, Tall Tales, and Lies - Contemporary Black Poetry; poem
Author:Phillips, Frank Lamont
Publication:African American Review
Date:Mar 22, 1993
Previous Article:Land changes.
Next Article:Word works.

Related Articles
Song of joy.
The long and short of it.
Auction block.
This South: I.
On the second birthday of my grandson Mikki (June 16, 1991).
Requiem for a teacher.
Poem for Mildred: wherever you are.
Mississippi River Poems.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters