Art’s Wife

Art’s Wife

Art’s buddy Galen said, “My mom’s the poet. The famous poet.”

I’d never heard of her and didn’t think much of poems; thought of Longfellow and long, long verses. And Tennyson.

While Galen introduced himself Art dragged his girlfriend into Galen’s bedroom. As the door closed, I wondered if Art’s wife had an inkling about any of this.

Art and I’d been in the Marines together.

After some prodding from Galen, I said I’d fought the war and he told me he’d break out the Chivas Regal and we’d toast death.

He thought a moment and then grinned, “And life, too.”

I wondered about his mother and about the poem I recalled from school. The Charge of the Light Brigade.

He asked me about being a Marine and I didn’t tell him much. He told me a lot about running kief from Morocco to the Costa Del Sol in a tiny motorboat with two Arabs and a Catalan.

I didn’t know about kief. He must have recognized my ignorance because he said, “Made from weed, some bad shit, man, better than this.” He hefted his class of Chivas.

In Galen’s bedroom Art hammered against the girlfriend while his wife took care of the boys back home.

Galen laughed and yelled, “Take it easy,” and the headboard, or so I guessed, banged and banged. It sounded like war, not love, or even lust. The whack and hammer like combat’s rhythm. Thump, thump, thump, thump.

And the lines marched into my mind from the poem I’d been forced to memorize in Mr. Telep’s sixth grade class: the poem from Tennyson, The Charge of the Light Brigade.

I blurted, “Half a league, half a league, half a league onward. All in the valley of death rode the six hundred. ‘Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns!’ he said. Into the valley of death rode the six hundred.”

Galen’s eyes blinked like a machine gun’s stutter. He swirled his Chivas and mumbled something—I couldn’t hear it well over the racket of wild fucking in the bedroom. Maybe he said, “Mother would never have written that.”

But then he hefted his glass and yelled, “War.”

I imagined Art’s wife changing diapers. “Charge for the guns,” I said.


About the Author

Ken Rodgers is a filmmaker, writer and poet from Vail, Arizona whose poems, essays and stories have appeared in a number of fine journals, most recently Allium, Hypertext Magazine, Collateral Journal and The Limberlost Review. A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Ken has also been nominated for Best American Short Stories. Along with his wife Betty he made the award-winning documentary films, Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor and I Married the War.


Photo by Hannah Skelly on Unsplash