George Eyre Masters was born in Philadelphia, PA and grew up in Vietnam. After the Marine Corps, he attended Georgetown University where he began to write. His work has appeared in national magazines, newspapers and literary journals. To support his writing he has been a commercial fisherman, construction worker, bartender, teacher and taxi driver. As a stuntman, he was consumed by the beast in the film “Alligator.” Masters has written the crime novel, “Trouble Breathing”, about a homeless war hero who falls for a San Francisco socialite, and is seeking a publisher. His website is http://www.georgeeyremasters.net
Morning arrived in San Francisco like a hitchhiker.
Lipstick on crooked; her rouge streaked,
She needed a drink, a comb and some sleep.
Smelling of diesel, donuts and ocean,
Tasting like fried eggs and bait,
She surrendered to gravity, calendar and the clock.
Gentle With the Dead
On a winter morning in Pennsylvania,
A dead young Marine awaits me.
Under an oatmeal sky laden with snow,
The road to the funeral home is sanded and black.
In the town square, with Rudolph in the lead,
A team of plastic reindeer stands frozen in their traces.
Christmas lights in windows, wreaths on doors,
Santa still strapped to a chimney, the people here hold their Christmas pose.
I climb the steps of the funeral home.
Inside, it smells of flowers, vacuumed carpet and furniture polish.
A house yes but no one lives here.
Duty, fear and a terrible sobriety ring in my ears.
When I enter his room, I stop breathing.
I am alone with the flag draped casket.
Killed in Vietnam, my Lance Corporal is viewable from the chest up.
Young and handsome, he’s wearing dress blues and too much make-up,
I try to recall his face.
I picture him dirty, unshaven, maybe wearing a helmet.
I don’t know this Marine.
I take a different angle.
Perhaps cleaning his rifle; writing a letter, shaving with a cigarette in his teeth.
No, I don’t recall him.
And it’s impossible to imagine him smiling.
Bending from the waist, I lean closer.
In the casket’s glass,
Ghost to ghost, our faces overlap.
Superimposed in a quick frozen laminate,
We are more than comrades.
Yes, of course I know him.
Later that morning his parents arrive.
Grief drowns the introductions.
The sobbing and crying —
–hyphenates any conversation.
With no map, no compass,
I wish to be anywhere else.
Back to Vietnam would be fine.
And that’s all She needed to hear.
Seductive, unwashed, fickle and flirtatious,
Sporting colors unseen in a wintered Pennsylvania,
Vietnam grins at me from a distance.
Holding out a bloodless hand, She dances closer.
“You want to come back, sweetheart?”
Dirty and shining, soporific and deadly,
Showing perfect white teeth,
She whispers, “I’ll be better next time, I promise.”
Honest to the bone,
Vietnam’s never told the truth in her life.
Orders are orders and there’s nowhere to hide.
I’m a living target and feel it too clearly.
I see it in the mourner’s eyes; can hear it murmured from the back of the room,
These friends, and school chums and relatives,
With their Bibles and tissues, and reddened eyes,
Wish I were dead
Instead of their favorite Marine.
All of them that is,
Except the mother.
To hope she’s wrong and maybe wake up from the nightmare,
Again and again she returns to the casket.
Her palsied hands now rest on the flag above
Where her son’s hips might be.
Crying out, she talons the cloth,
Leans heavily against me and I catch her.
The family comes up and leads her away,
I rearrange the flag.
Assuming the position of parade rest,
I avoid their eyes and stand my morning watch.