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Callaloo 23.1 (2000) 126-128

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Women in Uniform *

Cheryl Clarke

Part 1: In the Family

i. three generations gone
Lt. Lisa Bryant complained that
Fort Bragg was a place she detested in summer
only four weeks before rebuffed Sgt. First Class Ervin Graves shot
her in the face
four times with a .357 magnum.
21, Princeton ROT-C,
honors graduate,
The military is a necessary nuisance
for the ivy tuition, Lt. Bryant writes her father,
a Vietnam vet and old neighbor of General Powell, which
is still no reason for his daughter to have been ordered for the
second summer in a row to muggy North Carolina
by a spiteful ivy colonel.
I've served honorably for the past 13 years . . . All I've ever tried to
do is live a good life.
Sgt. First Class Graves writes his family, veterans of every war since
the Great War with even an aunt who drove rivets into the
Hiroshima b-29.
And then at a bar in the early morning hours
of a July Saturday at Fort Bragg
Lt. snubbed Sgt.--
versed in the Old Guard,
the Korean DMZ,
and many presidential parades.
Indeed, pulling more than rank on Sgt.,
after he stalked her and dragged her to his room,
Lt. fought him off and broke free to the corridor. [End Page 126]
There was no other way to show who's in control than for Ervin to
get his magnum.
And after he put Lisa's lights out

drink a case of beer and shoot pool too

that night.

Later remain 'mum,'

maintain innocence,

despite evidence
he wrecked three generations' lives.

Watching their belongings be impounded and herself
and two sons be evicted,
Renee, Sgt.'s wife, testified,
'I feel like I'm being punished, too.'
ii. Rookie
He killed Mason like you'd kill a troublesome fly
at the end of the summer--with a confident vengeance.
He was bigger in meanness than in bulk
and mad at her for coming up after him shouting 'Stop!!!! Or I'll
at him.
The size of a Belgian doll.
Tough as a violin and strung for days.
Learned to fight low-down before she was seven.
Fought to get into the academy.
And fought after she got in.
The only woman in her class.
The spittle-studded notes, the semen-feces smeared sanitary pad
skunking her locker
and frequent obscenities--'Eat shit, nigger bitch'--
didn't stop her.
She was at the head of her class.
Could shoot straighter yell louder
Punch kick throw harder than
anybody in her class
and she embraced pain
without losing concentration.
Mason's 50-something partner could not keep up with her that [End Page 127]
She was quick and sure.
Surely, sometimes too sure, jingled in his sluggish head.
Told her they shouldn't go up in that alley.
Partner was scared
and yelled ahead he was staying behind
to radio
'Damn! The spade only hit a convenience store. Rookies, man,'
Partner sneered in confidence to the glib dispatcher.
5 feet and walked the street like she owned it.
Busted kids for smoke.
Dispersed loiterers.
Twirled her black stick and meant it.
Mason never intended to direct traffic or give tickets or sit behind a
investigating on the phone.
She wanted to fight.
And she wanted to fight that night too--
up in the alley .38 drawn.
She could hear him and smell him
inching along the alley wall pushing against its protuberances
just before being snatched by the neck
off the ground, body dangling
feet almost
touching the grate
where pistol drops and arms flailing
and shook so hard trying
to prize his fingers from her neck
to pick up the .38
Dragging her with one hand
retrieves the .38 with the other.
the alley refuse
and tosses her to the street
like a sack of sticks.
And in the presence of six rifles
just for show presses the .38 to Mason's head
but then forces it in Mason's mouth to the stock.
The six couldn't believe the soundless spray...


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pp. 129-133
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