Steve Deutsch

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The Home Front— 3/16/68

She couldn’t have been
more than 19 or 20.
When I looked closely
I could still see
the little girl in her.

She’d spent the day
recruiting for SDS
and now,
was holding court
in the basement bar
on the avenue
that separated town and gown.
The evening’s
protest had dissolved
into beer and peanuts,
as it always did
for our group
of graduate students
dressed in radical drab.

She was smiling—
her hands speech-rhythmic
in the half light
as she presided over
a dissection of my life.

She pictured me a coward
nineteen different ways—
my research evil—
my deferment a cop-out—
as my former friends
sat drinking and smoking,
and shaking their hairy heads,
as if the gift of great wisdom
had been miraculously
bestowed upon them.

I was no match for her—
she was sharp
as an acid etch.
My stammered protestation
sounded—even to my ears—
like a confession.
And, of course,
she was right.

At 2, we stacked the chairs
on the tables and filed out.
It was cold and clear—
a million stars seemed
poised to tell us
something magical,
as that wisp of a girl
marched them off—
a ragged band
of the righteous
in combat boots
leaving me
to the silence
of the streets.

I turned up the collar
of my beat-up corduroy coat
and began to walk
It would be mid-morning
before I’d finish
this set of experiments.

I remember November 1963

It was the Saturday
after they’d gunned
down Kennedy.
Too cold for b-ball,
we huddled
in the schoolyard
and talked
at half voice.

We didn’t notice Joel
at the corner of the chain link
until he began to kick
it and scream,
“I’m so ugly.”

And he was.
It was as if
he was sculpted
from a single piece of granite
by an indifferent artist
who said—
“This is good enough,”
and put it aside.

We didn’t see the gun
until he put it
to his head
and pulled the trigger.
We all heard the empty click
and the wail of utter despair.

I remember that click
as clearly as I remember
that last motorcade.
And, I remember,
that even after he dropped
the pistol,
not one of us
ran to help him.


Steve Deutsch lives in State College, PA. His recent publications have or will appear in Panoply, Algebra of Owls, The Blue Nib, Thimble Magazine, The Muddy River Poetry Review, Ghost City Review, Borfski Press, Streetlight Press, Gravel, Literary Heist, Nixes Mate Review, Third Wednesday, Misfit Magazine, Word Fountain, Eclectica Magazine, The Drabble, and The Ekphrastic Review. He was nominated for Pushcart Prizes in 2017 and 2018. His chapbook, Perhaps You Can, was published in 2019 by Kelsay Press.