365 Degrees

Tom Johnson
Poetry Editor


Dreams of Wild Grape Clusters

Boys dream of eating
scuppernongs. Peeling
back layers so that
soft tangy flesh
floats on the tip
of the tongue.

Boys reclined on
creek banks, hands
clasped on their
sunburnt necks, ogle
round firm
fruit; fantasize of

going beyond the skirt
of sand that wraps palm
fronds in white; hands
skimming past knees
that grip the tree;
moving upward into

the revelation of ripeness;
the soft musk so close
that one might touch
fingertips to the parting
bunch and bring back juice
to the tongue.

Boys grow larger.
Thinking of wet lips
tasting first fruit
reminds of scuppernong
wine and its


Remembering you, remembering a hot summer sun
setting on the red clay of "beanie-weenie hill."
Tiny warriors using homemade weapons for our man's game:
my flintlock musket, someone with a Louisville Slugger bazooka,
pockets full of granite grenades, and Tommy
with the M-16 that went rat-a-tat-tat when you pulled the trigger.

You were a god among boys, Tommy.
We battled against an invisible enemy,
clay caking us like blood.
All except you; the bright green fatigues that set you apart
defied the clay and dust.
Your father's medals sparkling on your army jacket,
the collapsible shovel, the boots, the compass, the canteen,
you had all we were in awe of as you led the charge.

Polished brass and smooth cool wood
have brought you back perfect and shining to me,
as we carry you, not on our shoulders,
but slung low.
The bright green turf that hides the earth
makes me wonder if you wear the fatigues inside.
Did they sluff off the blood as they did the clay?
And did you have it all?

Did an unseen enemy stand in awe
as he raised the AK-47,
and quietly, with the flick of a finger, diminished you?
Did he know, Tommy, as the metal jacketed round
made a perfect hole just below your left eye,
that you were a god
who once led a valiant charge on beanie-weenie hill?

Returning to a Meadow

There in the meadow between the river and the pine
We pressed the grass into a wedding bed.
I thought you would always be mine.

Morning dew glimmering in the sun, fine
Strands of wind softly touching your head.
There in the meadow between the river and the pine.

A band of gold, promises, roses, wine,
There to bind you on the morning that we wed.
I thought you would always be mine.

Tall grass and flowers withered brown, a sign
Of smouldering summer bloodied by sunset red.
There in the meadow between the river and the pine.

The words crawl inside me, a wilting vine
Connecting your disjointed image in my head,
I thought you would always be mine.

My footsteps press the grass in a straight line
To the stone marker that rests above your head
There in the meadow between the river and the pine,
I thought you would always be mine.

Ivan Young, a native of Columbia who has lived there for most of his 30 years, took the second-place prize in the recent poetry competition sponsored by The Happy Bookseller. He holds a B.S. degree in zoology from Clemson and is currently completing an M.F.A. in creative writing at the University of South Carolina. There he works as assistant editor of Yemassee and co-edits an upcoming collection of work by students of the late James Dickey. The poem "Dreams of Wild Grape Clusters" was his prize-winning entry in The Happy Bookseller contest.

© Copyright by POINT, 1997
Last modified 6/23/97