Monday, January 10, 2005

A Sestina Celebrating Radar O'Reilly

I really ought to spread these out a bit more, but I'm in a poem-posting mood, so here's another one. I wrote it a couple years ago in response to an assignment in poetry class requiring us to write a sestina about a sit-com character. I chose Radar because M*A*S*H is my favorite sit-com and he is my favorite character. Without further ado...


Like a little lost boy, he clutches his teddy bear
In his arms, nervously wiping his grimy glasses.
The war wants him to grow up fast, but he declines
To change. He wraps his naivety around him like a warm
Blanket to shield him from cold reality. High
School never prepared him for the arrival of choppers

Laden with wounded. The first time he saw it, his choppers
Could not consume the chow in the Mess. He simply could not bear
The sight of so much pain. Abandoning his dinner, he high-
Tailed it outside to get some fresh air. "You dropped your glasses,"
The kindly colonel called. He smiles at the memory. How warm
And fatherly was Blake. But now his face is creased with lines

Of sorrow, recalling the descent behind enemy lines –
No, the Sea of Japan should have been safe – of the chopper
Carrying his mentor home. How his hand, practically still warm
From that last handshake, trembled as he gripped the telegram, bare-
Ly able to read it through the fog of his tear-stained glasses!
If only he’d made it home, he would feel no guilt in his high

Opinion of Potter, a horse-lover and high-
Ly efficient commander who frequently inclines
An ear to the clairvoyant corporal behind those glasses,
Who has come to rely on the unexpected cry: “Choppers!”
Hawkeye, B.J., Charles...all rush to the deceptively bare
Field which, moments later, is filled with the stench of warm

Blood as wounded are unloaded. Today is a reprieve. Warm
rays of sun filter through the window; he squints as he writes, “Hi,
Ma...” He pauses, seeking soothing words to fill the bare
Page. And so he writes, filling his letter with lines
Of pleasantries, letting cheerfulness mask the dread of choppers
Looming ominously in his mind. Delicate as glass, his

Words protect her. “...Love, Walter,” he finishes. His glasses
Fog at the thought of home, and he seeks refuge in the warm
Fur of Fluffy, grateful that Hawkeye refused to chop her
Up beyond repair. The gentle rabbit’s presence is a high
Point in his homesick days. Stroking her, he imagines the lines
Of crops in Iowa, the newborn calves, his bedroom – bare.

A rabbit and a teddy bear, a pair of filthy glasses...
They are his only lines to his home, so distant and warm.
Sighing, he sips a Grape Ne-Hi and awaits the choppers.

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