top of page

Mark Trechock

Corporal True

The last time I saw Curtis True
he was twenty-two, a Vietnam veteran,
carrying a baby on his back,
and wearing the kind of button-down shirt
the white boys wore in high school,
while black boys like him favored
what we called continentals, tight pants
without a cuff, sheer silky shirts, and high-
polished, pointed black slip-on.

He was cool then, handsome.
Bedroom eyes, they used to say,
and with the boys a joker who
gave pointers about keeping your girl
by staying suave, not being
distracted, always controlling
the action with your look.

But now his eyes just would not stay 
still, they darted across the crowd,
as it milled in search of the right cant
on the hillside for a blanket
to watch the Fourth of July fireworks.
True knew them all, but knew none.
He was alone, back in the jungle.

He lit one cigarette from another.
“Don’t let them send you over there,”
He said. “Do anything else.
You won’t come back right.”


His name was Arthur, 

            not a cool name

                        in the sixties

                                    and he drove


a powder blue Rambler

               also not cool,

                          which his mother

                                      gave him when her new


husband bought her

            that Cadillac. But after

                        the close call with the semi

                                    and the crumpled fender,


we called him Crash.

            He had this dopey

                        smile in school like

                                    he always knew the answer


but he never raised his hand.


Later, after dropping

           out of college he stopped

                       calling, and I was busy

                                   with school and getting


engaged, and I didn’t call

             although I should have,

                        and I found out later

                                    he was in the hospital


for a month, and on

            the day of his release, he

                        jumped off the railroad trestle

                                     that spans the Mississippi.


I was a pall bearer.


Now I think of him

           each fall when I 

                      climb the rickety ladder

                                  after my neighbor’s eighty-


foot silver maple has

           clogged up my gutters, and here

                        and there the last leaves come

                                    floating down noiseless to


the ground.

bottom of page