JOURNAL: RALPH L. MOUL, ELECTRICIAN MATE 2ND CLASS, U.S.S. LEXINGTON in the Pacific, imagined 1943 non-entry.

A TOWHEAD

Every enemy demands complete attention; the body switches to automatic.
If radar does not blip, a sailor daydreams hope for home and wife as a wave
Obeys its law in nature, co-opting duty, frozen in reverie, even its boredom.

Buddies talk life and death at every rank, not planning a lesson as a teacher;
Not the way a contractor schedules utilities before sheetrock or carpentry;
But more in the manner of a pastor’s obligation to guide members of his flock.

Rumors of action, ever specifics deficient, discussed aforesaid, then action
Confirmed certain by the tracers, enemy movement that penetrates the ship’s
Zone of readiness, Lex with a nod to Concord, jargon crying on every deck.
Planes, pilots and ammo in use or at ready: the carrier turns into the wind;
Sailors teeter on a rising slope; the fleet responds in unison; comes an order
Reckoning SNAFU; cockups in Navy letter and law; slicing away excess fat
In Man’s bureaucracy, irrelevant as leave at the burlesque house in Pearl.

Recent history: August 2, 1943, a male son, the first for sailor Ralph Moul
At sea and wife Margaret, home in St. Louis, was born, a towhead, Dennis.

Unspoken perhaps, unwritten: but he did think; he blurted “darling, darling”
Direct address to wind; or his military tone wavered a forlorn, universal “why?”
Or scuttlebutt hoisted the hope of covert repairs in the Bremerton channel; or,
Off-handedly he scribbled name and address of his best friend’s mom waiting
In Michigan.  A sailor accepts ignorance of events, of daily problems for wife
And child in Missouri, of frets memory-filled for parents home in Wisconsin,
To an older sibling in another theater of war, to irrelevancies of his childhood.

He returns to her.  Does she thrill darkly as the hulking ship ends its mission?
Can she find in him any hint of yawing seas?  Can she deduce the sea’s depth
Competently marked only by the newly dead?  Will she read a sailor’s catalog
Of a great armada pieced laboriously during fearful radar posting on the bridge?
What of a son’s future in rapt inquiry, listening for unspoken atrocities of war?

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JOURNAL: RALPH L. MOUL, ELECTRICIAN MATE 2ND CLASS, U.S.S. LEXINGTON 3/3-8/23/1944.

July 5, 1944: Made our last attack on Guam today.  We haven’t any bombs left.  Boogies (sic) to-night, about 5 of them.

LOOSE LIPS

The crew growls at hunger.  The captain rations food, bullets, intelligence.

Ordnance spent on Guam shuffles defenders in hurried dances to Saipan.
Fuel vapor wafts the flight deck, burns the lungs, but engines will not fire,
Granting respite to the Marianas.  Pilots wander aft, both furious for battle
And hoarse for quiet seas, cursing their broken planes, empty bomb bays;
Proud wasp or falcon formations seeking easy pickings on Saipan.  A sailor
Aches to succor a warrior’s need; will give his life to right his carrier’s arc
Into void; to shoot the fix for bogies buzzing from that void; to bogies down
To obliteration, consumed, mindless of their suddenly improvised superiority,
Their caliber of advantage.  Tonight, a sailor writes from his contraband heart,
His artless note offering “aid and comfort” that if known (never that he could)
Spur from bunkmates hateful derision, the stink preceding his kind to the brig. 

No one aboard imagines, at home in the park, sycamores pods ripe and ready,
Adolescent girls sing a common verse: “loose lips sink our ships.”  Giggles
Attract the boys on the mound or at the plate to turn; their chests (the boys)
Inflate to prance the awkward species mating dance, preening brilliant colors

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JOURNAL: RALPH L. MOUL, ELECTRICIAN MATE 2ND CLASS, U.S.S. LEXINGTON 3/3-8/23/1944.

July 5, 1944: Closed to 10 miles and our night fighter was over Saipan, helping them out.  They had an attack to-nite.

THE FACT OF CIRCLING LIGHT

A rotating light beam, sailor, serves you: as eyes to “see” the swell of ocean in all directions,
Two hundred thousand acres at a time; as eyes to “see” a fighter over Saipan, ten miles with
No clutter; as eyes to “see” a periscope plash in night’s dark swash; as eyes to “see” echoes
Of Lexington’s wash swirling around Guam, yesterday’s echo of independence, yesterday’s
Ghost with proud history.  In each day’s visions crawling eerily over combers, those heat Phantoms intensely seductive, your eyes “see” also too many wondrous alternatives to duty: Homecoming in dress whites, wife and child awed by your alertness, your contribution to Glorious victory over dark spirits dying for Japan, and the admiral’s salute acknowledging?

And what of coming generations amassing questions, some risking long stifled memory?
Your answers too often wide of the grisly mark, too grisly to confront, when the fact is your Return from war will birth more children and fantasies of forty dumb years of silent horror.

 

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Keith Moul’s poems and photos are published widely.  Finishing Line Press released a chap called The Future as a Picnic Lunch in 2015. Aldrich Press will publish Naked Among Possibilities in 2016; Finishing Line Press has accepted Investment in Idolatry for 2016 release. TO learn more, visit: 
http://poemsphotosmoul.blogspot.com/