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BEAUTIFUL WRECKAGE: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS

RETRIEVING BONES; STORIES AND POEMS OF THE KOREAN WAR

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W.D. Ehrhart
W.D. Ehrhart W. D. Ehrhart


On the Eve of Destruction

The weekend Watts went up in flames,
we drove from Fullerton to Newport Beach
and down the coast as far as Oceanside,
four restless teenage boys three thousand miles
from home, Bob Dylanís rolling stones
in search of waves and girls and anyone
whoíd buy us beer or point us toward the fun.
California. What a high. The Beach Boys,
freeways twelve lanes wide, palm trees everywhere.
And all the girls were blonde and wore bikinis.
Iíd swear to that, and even if it wasnít true,
who cared? A smalltown kid from Perkasie,
I spent that whole long summer with my eyes
wide open and the world unfolding
like an open road, the toll booths closed,
service stations giving gas away.
What did riots in a Negro ghetto
have to do with me? What could cause
such savage rage? I didnít know
and didnít think about it much.
The Eve of Destruction was just a song.
Surf was up at Pendleton. The war in Vietnam
was still a sideshow half a world away,
a world that hadnít heard of Ia Drang or Tet,
James Earl Ray, Sirhan Sirhan, Black Panthers,
Spiro Agnew, Sandy Scheuer, Watergate.
We rode the waves ítil two MPs
with rifles chased us off the beach:
military land. ďFuck you!Ē we shouted
as we roared up Highway One, windows open,
surfboards sticking out in three directions,
thinking it was all just laughs, just kicks,
just a way to kill another weekend,
thinking we could pull this off forever.