EXCALIBUR, AS TOLD TO MY NEPHEW
When I turned twelve, my birthday gift from a first sergeant old friend of your grandfather was a KA-BAR, the sheath knife with seven-inch blade designed for 1942 Pacific operations. It was legendary after Bowie's knife, cutlass, kris, kukri, claymore, katana, scimitar, mameluke; the character of drop-forged alloy of Camillus, New York, was surely the superior of ancient, tortured laminations of Toledo, Damascus, or Edo steel. As I pulled the blade from the leather scabbard and held it en garde, your grandmother gasped as if I had drawn it from a stone.
O'er head winter moon
brightens skirts of long cloud
subtlest jewelry *
With a knife not meant for campers, a Boy Scout patrol turned ruffian band plundered a blackberry bramble and felled a raft of young poplars to trespass on the reservoir. Taking turns to vandalize pine pickets placed by surveyors who led bulldozers through our woods to build the route 495 beltway, each boy wielded the knife to avenge the destruction of our tree fort and was initiated. "When is it my turn?" cried one of your uncles. "Later," we teased. "After we make you whine some more!"
forest of summer
murmurs through dappled shadow
sheltering the flies
Duct taped to a shoulder harness, the knife one year in Viet Nam was used to open rations and clear fields of fire. Though it still appeared an emblem, it was a tool inspiring no will to power encouraging no close engagements, the keen edge no match for weapons of caliber, range and the sort of effectiveness to which I and now you too are witness.
"How about a case of beer for that combat knife," asked a fellow who had not yet seen. Although tempted, we bartered standing in a cold rain, thirst long since quenched.
meander in purple
mirror darkened still
Matthew, the KA-BAR does not hang a souvenir in my den. I recall seeing it last leading an escape and evasion through Panama jungle training, preparing for the next, reliving the last conflict. I, silently cutting through lianas in the dark, dropped the knife down a slope where we heard it splash perhaps in the Rio Arenal. Retrieving it risked capture by our instructors then waterboarding any officers taken. No, the blade of mass-produced war materiel lies forgotten, finally dull, rusting on a foreign shore, fallen from the hand of the exhausted or yet in the last, bony grasp of the lost. I am so happy that you are home.
through whitening mangrove roots
exposed in neap tide
*Scenery at Sir Bedevere's temptation as described in Tennyson's "Morte d'Arthur".