Old Dogs

LIBERTY


where
was my mind?
shuffling along
a Wildwood sidewalk
stupid smile
spread out upon
my clean shaven
baby face
six weeks so far
in a Cape May boot camp
had done a number
on my numb brain

they knew
what they were doing
most definitely
taking all my hair just
an innocent beginning
and now they had
exactly what they wanted
a walking Coast Guard zombie
slicked up in his bravos
salivating at the thought
of six pitiful hours
or relative freedom
one hour for each
programmed week
of basic training
thus far

I didn't think
going in at 23
that they could
get to me
as easily
as they did

what did I expect?

I had come to think that
the ridiculous
was now normal

sleeping
on top of a blanket
on cold New Jersey winter nights
so as not
to unsquare my rack

forming up outside
in the darkness five minutes
after waking
shivering in nothing
but gym shorts
tee shirt
and tennis shoes
which I had worn
of course
to bed

prefacing and ending
every statement with
SIR!!!
now doing so
without conscious effort

coming to believe
that the full
ten minutes
allotted for eating meals
was an extravagance
impatiently
waiting in ranks
for all those slackers
who inconsiderately
took more than
five

I was a defeated
grinning fool
and had gotten
what I had wanted
a complete change
in my deviant
lifestyle

the six weeks
of mandatory sobriety
early to bed - early to rise
strictly enforced regimen
with regular
physical training
had all taken their
devastating toll
on my up-to-then
laissez-faire
attitude

Hell
I was even
reading the Bible
each and every day
since it was the only allowed
extracurricular reading material
and attending church services
Protestant and Catholic
every Sunday
as they were the only
regular escapes
from the daily oppression
of barracks life

I would
have laughed
at the suggestion
a month and a half earlier
that I would become
such a pathetic being
in such a short
period of
time

now
out on my own
after dining at McDonald's
and able to choke down only half
of the dreamed-of burger
I was searching
for something more worthy
on which to spend my
limited time back
on the civilian streets

something
that would take
the most advantage
of the few hours
so allotted
but roaming through
a coastal resort town
in the winter months
offered only a few
available
options

then
I saw the lights
of a seedy little bar
so reminiscent
of my pre-Guard
habitual haunts
leaving me
to consider
some sixty dollars
folded in my pocket
and what was left
of six hours to kill
time enough
thankfully
to find
a dark corner
and a cold
beer

abroad
and home
all at the
same
time

let the
deprogramming
begin