ERNIE’S FOREIGN LEGION
Oriskany, Virginia, 1958
She married him because
he made her laugh. It was later she learned
of the worm in the apple, that flow
of sweet juice to bitter poison and back
that had left him on the shelf.
But this was the rise of honeymoon. She took him
to the farm where she was raised,
away from streetcars, nightclubs, filibusters.
He might have been in Atlantis
with barely a tank to breathe.
He persevered. Someone had told him
how you call pigs, and he walked out
past the pumphouse and up a green ridge.
He carried a tin toy horn, for some reason
no retelling recalls. Probably to make the missus smile.
Soo-ey! he called, half-self-mocking. From the porch,
Mom and her sisters watched
as a Confederate regiment of swine
rose over the hill, hell-bent on avenging Daddy
every bacon sandwich.
Later, tumult over, the couple safely
back inside the Beltway, learning
the sickness portion of the vow, an uncle
found the tin horn trampled in the shit.
Luke 8:26-39: the people of the Gerasenes
called the young holy man to heal
the man called Legion. Jesus cast his demons
into a herd of pigs, who fled, light-blind,
into the sea. Gerasenes cast out the healer.
I like to think that the pigs of Oriskany
brought Daddy not Legion’s hand-me-down demons,
but some small light
that stayed in his heart through Sykesville,
psych wards, shocks and sorrows,
some smile-making charm
bright and wee as farm sun
off a dented tin horn.