The Sport of Kings

President Reagan at Bitburg

That the girls ran up to me
And begged me to save them
Offering themselves
Fighting one another
To be under me tonight
In return for life tomorrow
So I chose one
She was lighthaired and blue-eyed
A scarf covering her white forehead
And we made our plans
And she did my bidding in the dark
But when grey dawn sifted in the tent
I had to dismiss her
She caught my gaze in hers
Her fear twisting into the earth
Like a gnarled root
I saw her later when we shot them
By the pit in the wind
She seemed surprised to be falling
Kaum tassbar—barely conceivable
There is so much work to do
Bitter though our duty is we persevere

The girls are dark like honey now
Woven skirts, white blouses, barefoot
Eyes soft as rabbits'
Suddenly given human comprehension
It doesn't take long
And we clean the weapons
And get back in the jeeps
Villages dot the mountains like flags
And when evening comes
We get meals from the women
And they offer their charms
If we'll spare their fathers
I just laugh and say
We're passing through
Nothing doing right now
And they flinch in the dirt street
Eyes askance at mine
I'll look after your father
I tell the slenderest
Ravenhaired with broad proud cheeks
But who looks after me?
Later she submits silently as in a dream
Convoy lamps pass by
Speckling the darkened hut
Her face suddenly like an Ethiopian's
In the foreign newspapers
Or Peruvian, Argentine Indian
Those Asian maidens with the veil ripped down
Whose men are in the snowy mountains
Those that still live and—
Inconcebiblé—she makes no sound
And is gone when I wake
To clear the village with my squadron

No trouble, routine procedures
Line them up in the street
Give the order lie down
Shortrange thuds into their crying heads
Plenty of women and children to mourn them
But who mourns for me
That finishes the necessary work
Of orderly civilizations?

Click below to hear WJ Ray reading
"President Reagan at Bitburg" with musical background:
Buena Vista Social Club, "Chan Chan", Buena Vista Social Club, Nonesuch, 1997

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