Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 7
Spring 2013

[Poem + Commentary]

by Laurel Ann Bogen

Imprint, May, 1970

I tell you the skin alone cannot contain
the brawl of a generation—
we burned flags before the helmets
and the dogs rabid with our parents’ teeth.
Then we locked arms, swaying
and cheered when the match struck.
We watched, swore the jelly of napalm
would not silence the corpses
pulled from rice paddies in another world.

We thought our skin could still contain
the body blows, the clubs and guns
that struck down one 
by one by one by one

I shuffled through white china rows
of lunchtime professors
my black armband for the dead
the frat boys on scholarship
carrying thick-skinned pudding
trays of coffee and cream 
counted the days until graduation
Mao and a map of Canada
hidden in their back pockets.

A girl on the television in the foyer
bent down, transfixed, screaming
skin stretched taut to the corners
her arms outstretched, protesting 
the body of the sprawled boy before her
blood seeps from sinew to dermis
her young face twists
when a camera clicks like a bullet
in a chamber of the heart and we are naive 
as though fists had never bruised us before

I stopped dropped
the sheets of colored paper
like blood flowering 
on the four-cornered floor.

They say even Nixon broke
when they started killing the students
the rupture of skin splitting open
a wound even he could not stitch together
so when they told me it was over
I didn’t believe them
that scar on membrane and flesh
smoothing over but will not slough off.


Commentary by Laurel Ann Bogen

I began “Imprint, May, 1970” some 30+ years after I graduated from the University of Southern California. In those 30 years I saw idealism crumble. Yes, even my own—I admit it. Yet even more (alarmingly) it seemed that this was the case with the younger students, mostly undergraduates, I encountered in the 1990s and 2000s. They were more interested in expediency than in altruism.

Was this our legacy? Did we sell out for self preservation and a diamond-encrusted Rolex? And even worse, did we spawn those values in our offspring? This conflict was the genesis of the poem. Has it been solved? I don’t think so.


SHJ Issue 7
Spring 2013

Laurel Ann Bogen

lives in Los Angeles where she is a popular performer of her work in cabarets, nightclubs, and theaters. She has published several collections of poetry, including The Burning: New and Selected Poems 1970-1990, Do Iguanas Dance, Under the Moonlight, and Rag Tag We Kiss.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury