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   l e a r n i n g    t o    p l a y    d u r i n g    t h e    w a r    i n    v i e t n a m

--- P E T E R   M U N R O

Sorrow follows an evil         thought, for the time being only.

Berryman, Dream Song 144

I am too young to know first hand about napalm. That jelly never crackled my skin with its bite. The jungle's green seared black, and jets brayed into scales beyond the hearing of a dog, before I turned eighteen, before I'd tasted a woman's nipple, before I could learn all the flavors of attack.

Fattened on music, sheltered from fiery attack, I was not tried by tracers or whumping napalm, by kerosine whine. Nor were my dreams of nipples and rump sessions, silk and slight alluring overbites, torn by flame or suffering. My whole world turned on arpeggios, timbre, tempo, minor scales

ascending, notes blended and distinct as the scales of a fish trailing blood from its gills. I attacked each phrase like a lover, tonguing, slurring by turns, my trumpet sailing, the bell flared bright as napalm- flashed news, my high notes crisp and clear and full of bite, the mouthpiece pressed warm as a milk-stiffened nipple.

Consider this shotgun. How unlike a nipple the void of its muzzle. Consider the blue scale of its barrel choked to scatter buckshot, the bite of twelve-gauge pellets, pump action, the steel attack swollen as love. When from above high-C, napalm splashing spit-hot, my horn blared its canon and returned

with drumbeats in the thump of great rotors turning, with soldiers hunched by petroleum-crisped nipples and screaming like flutes, with the spatter of napalm distant as the TV, I lost all sense of scale, (my tongue a knotted pink fist poised tense to attack the note, staccato), hungry for any small bite,

each sweeter than mother. Consider how to bite down on brass tubing rammed in, the tuning slide turned back, its bore greater than any shotgun's, attack as soft as the most lovingly proffered nipple. I took it deep, like her cock in a blowjob. The scale of her love erupts octaves hotter than napalm

when I feel her bite down on my cindered nipple though dead for years. To turn back, to live, I must scale this muzzle, attacking light dappled as napalm.

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