- The last time I saw the name Paul Castle
- it was printed in gold on the wall
- above the showers in the boys’
- locker room, next to the school
- record for the mile. I don’t recall
- his time, but the year was 1968
- and I can look across the infield
- of memory to see him on the track,
- legs flashing, body bending slightly
- beyond the pack of runners at his back.
- He couldn’t spare a word for me,
- two years younger, junior varsity,
- and hardly worth the waste of breath.
- He owned the hallways, a cool blonde
- at his side, and aimed his interests
- further down the line than we could guess.
- Now, reading the name again,
- I see us standing in the showers,
- naked kids beneath his larger,
- comprehensive force — the ones who trail
- obscurely, in the wake of the swift,
- like my shadow on this gleaming wall.
“At the Vietnam Memorial” was originally published in Bilgere’s collection Big Bang. His most recent book of poems is The White Museum, chosen by Alicia Ostriker for the 2010 Autumn House Poetry Series. He received a Pushcart Prize in 2009 and won the May Swenson Poetry Award in 2006 for Haywire (Utah State University Press). His poems are heard frequently on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac, and he has appeared as a guest on A Prairie Home Companion. He teaches at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. “At the Vietnam Memorial” is printed by permission of the author.
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