To him, no one ever says "Pandora's Box."
The uniformed salute. The uninformed
just smile, know him as "good ol'
Col. Gabe," the most unreadable face
in the staff poker game. And no one anywhere
in his corner of the highest security sector
at the White House finds it even a little odd
that his favorite weekend thing is to give
the Secret Service the slip, sneak out all in black,
play his mournful golden horn 'til closing
at City Blues, way up there on Connecticut near
the Woodley Park/Zoo station. Blows so hard
most nights, it takes his breath away. Moths flutter
out of the sharp flame that he suspects
once was somebody's brain.
Keeps the highest military clearances
nonetheless, continues to pass for close enough
to "normal." Stands so near the fire, though,
that he sees the President twitch and suddenly
swat at his own face when nothing is anywhere
near; doesn't ask, will never tell.
About the commander-in-chief's tummy-aches
and pills, this Colonel wisely turns away,
shrugs. Has no need to know. Just lives each day
as his last. Does not worry, as his mother did,
about the ambulance crew. Under his crisp
Air Force blues, always wears clean underwear.
Mostly lacy lingerie or black leather.
Like those bearers of the bundled fasces—
symbols of ancient Caesar's power,
borne by the imperial retinue—
the Colonel always walks just a few steps
behind, eyes down, inconspicuously carries
what the Service gamely calls "the football."
This solitary military man—all his family
gone—proudly handcuffed to the hard black
handle on the small suitcase that must follow
the Leader everywhere. On Air Force One,
too, holds it on his lap like the son he never
had, wears a sidearm and safeguards one
of the two keys required to open this
portable box. In spit-polished shoes,
his is to do and do. Not to think how his
burden strains to contain the final day
of the world, all the secret fire words, those
ever-morphing codes to summon ultimate war.
Sometimes, staffers nearby say he hums
odd tunes. Composes funereal taps—the last
trump—high, triumphant electronic geese calls.
Musical blasts that would proclaim the fall
of more than just one wall at Jericho,
trumpet gleefully the so long longed-for
so long, the final rending of the veil, the
good-ol'-American-boys Armageddon blues.