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Body Bags




Let's hear it for Dwayne Coburn, who was small

And mean without a single saving grace

Except for stealing—home from second base

Or out of teammates' lockers, it was all

The same to Dwayne.  The Pep Club candy sale,

However, proved his downfall.  He was held

Briefly on various charges, then expelled

And given a choice:  enlist or go to jail.

He finished basic and came home from Bragg

For Christmas on his reassignment leave

With one prize in his pack he thought unique,

Which went off prematurely New Year's Eve.

The student body got the folded flag

And flew it in his memory for a week.




Good pulling guards were scarce in high school ball.

The ones who had the weight were usually slow

As lumber trucks.  A scaled-down wild man, though,

Like Dennis "Wampus" Peterson, could haul

His ass around right end for me to slip

Behind his blocks. Played college ball a year—

Red-shirted when they yanked his scholarship

Because he majored, so he claimed, in Beer.

I saw him one last time.  He'd added weight

Around the neck, used words like "grunt" and "slope,"

And said he'd swap his Harley and his dope

And both balls for a 4-F knee like mine.

This happened in the spring of '68.

He hanged himself in 1969.




Jay Swinney did a great Roy Orbison

Impersonation once at Lyn-Rock Park,

Lip-synching to "It's Over" in his dark

Glasses beside the jukebox.  He was one

Who'd want no better for an epitaph

Than he was good with girls and charmed them by

Opening his billfold to a photograph:

Big brother.  The Marine.  Who didn't die.

He comes to mind, years from that summer night,

In class for no good reason while I talk

About Thoreau's remark that one injustice

Makes prisoners of us all. The piece of chalk

Splinters and flakes in fragments as I write,

To settle in the tray, where all the dust is.


R.S. Gwynn



From No Word of Farewell: Poems 1970-2000, Story Line
Press, (c) 2001.  Used by permission of the author.


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