Richard D. Houff

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Uses for Army Surplus

I remember this small park that fell
out of use by the early sixties.
It was one of many parks scattered
throughout the residential sections
of the town, and they no longer
bothered with the lights or upkeep.
There was also a small brick monkey
house that stood silent, and empty.
On warm summer, and fall nights,
I would use it as a backrest,
hiding in the shadows of giant elms.
It was a place to relax from having
to deal with Jr. H.S., and all the other
bullshit; hand rolling Bull Durham
from a ten cent tobacco sack
with the papers included was a plus.
Sometimes, my girlfriend would show
up with a pack of filter-tips, carrying
an old army surplus blanket.
I had a trench coat with all the proper
insignia and patches removed.
We’d throw together a makeshift
bed, watch the stars, and make out.
She’d talk about having babies,
and how I’d be working at the plant
where they slaughtered hogs.
It was a nice fantasy until she got
to the meat processing factory.
I had read Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle”
and survived the horrifying school
field trip, so my mind was already
damaged in regards to working
at the local slaughterhouse.
And I really didn’t need to remind her
that we’d probably all end up being dead
in a few years with the newly reinstated
draft hanging dark halos on our doors,
and handing out free passes to Vietnam.


Richard D. Houff was the editor of Heeltap Magazine and Pariah Press, from 1986 to 2010.  He has had over twenty books published in both poetry and prose.  His work has appeared in The Brooklyn Review, Chiron Review, Louisiana Review, Nexus, and many other fine magazines.