Photo courtesy of the author.

Two poems: “University of Georgia Dorm” and “Dive Bar Sundays”

University of Georgia Dorm

-1967

We wanted to be brave, prove ourselves,

yet we studied deep into each night

to keep out of the war that was our

one big chance to prove we were brave,

the chance Phil from Cordele got after

failing Chemistry, losing his deferment,

Phil who was clumsy, not good at sports.

We shook our heads at the thought of him -

fuzz-cheeked, helmet too big, search and destroy.

We looked for faces on the nightly news,

friends pushing their way through chest-high grass.

Two hundred Phils a week were getting killed.

We dreamed of pulling hurt kids from car wrecks

to prove we were brave, but there were no wrecks,

there was only the war where cousins flew

Hueys outside of Pleiku, and we did not.

"Hiding out in college isn't fair," we said.

Ramrod uncles said, "All right then, enlist."

We didn't want to go that far.

 

Krishna told Arjuna he had to go fight.

Hector's body was defiled at Troy.

God told Abraham, "Kill me a son,"

the line Bob Dylan used in a song

we sometimes played in our metal-desk rooms

where we studied while not being brave.

No one wanted to be the son who might

not be spared, the son who'd go like Phil did,

like Trey from Macon did after he gave up

passing Statistics. We helped him pack,

told him he might end up in Germany,

but nobody really believed it.

 

Dive Bar Sundays

-1990s

It opened at noon for NASCAR races,

this place we dare not enter at night.

But if you'd ever spent time under a hood,

ever brazed a tail pipe, you were welcome

to shout at the fuzzy TV with roofers,

to drink flat Pabst from scratch-clouded mugs,

the social miracle - prep school teachers

and college profs fitting in (hating Fords

and loving ole Dale or vice versa)

with the urban unreconstructed,

pistons banging in cylinders uniting

those with little else in common except

revulsion for the jar of pickled eggs.

 

But when art school girls started showing up,

first as our dates then in gawking threes

they ruined the balance and never noticed

for here was a redneck petting zoo,

blessed antidote to their world of concepts.

Fleeing irony, they brought it with them,

their black-frame glasses not hiding bodies

the regulars first appraised then wanted.

This placed us in the chivalrous trap

of protecting the girls while wanting them too.

Resentments emerged, the spell was broken,

our clothes and proper English mocked.

But after the race, if neck-stoma Bud

danced on the bar while smoking a Camel

through his stainless hole, the art-schoolers

got up there too, did the dirty-dog,

thrusting their bottoms to Lynyrd Skynyrd,

re-uniting the men they'd just divided.

  • Rupert Fike

    About

    Rupert Fike's second collection of poems, Hello the House, recently won the Violet Reed Haas Award and will be published this fall by Snake Nation Press.. His stories and poems have appeared in The Southern Review of Poetry, The Georgetown Review, A&U America's AIDS Magazine, The Buddhist Poetry Review, Natural Bridge, and others. He has a poem inscribed in a downtown Atlanta plaza, and his non-fiction, Voices from The Farm, chronicles life on a 1970s Tennessee commune.