On acid, in my other life, I’d seen leviathans
on carrousels, ghost-beasts from the pelagic dark,
breeching and immortal looking. Or their equivalent.
And once you’ve seen that, the rest is rock ‘n roll.
So when another airman held out his hand, offering
a capsule the washed-out blue of skies in the Midwest,
I didn’t ask. I paid him. Borrowed a swig of his beer
and swallowed. MDMA, he called it. I was off to
listen to Roger Daltrey sing, Can you see the real me?
They didn’t call what I took Ecstasy. Not in Rantoul
in nineteen seventy-three. You ask, What was it like?
Like entering the Afterlife, if your idea of afterlife
is the Air Force—Rantoul, Illinois in November
and an ancient, wood barracks with dim corridors,
the War in Vietnam a world away and winding down,
though body bags never stopped arriving from there.
Daltrey sang, I work myself to death just to fit in.
Years later, I read Pete Townsend discovered
the whistles of the diesel trains near his home
could suggest adolescent pain. They said, Watch.
I wish I could say the Air-Force-regulation-haircut
golden boy I was is still there somewhere, still dying
to one world and rising into a far finer, cleaner one.
I can’t. And this life makes less sense all the time.
When winter came that year to Illinois, it snowed.
Deep snows that blew across the roads. On base and
off. And I was astonished at what we survive, though
marveling at the drifts I may not have thought that then.
Roy Bentley is the author of Walking with Eve in the Loved City, a finalist for the 2018 Miller Williams Poetry Prize, and Starlight Taxi (Lynx House), which won the Blue Lynx Poetry Prize. A new book, American Loneliness, is due out in April of 2019 from Lost Horse Press.