Please write an explication of Basic Training by Sherman PearlI am having trouble with this.  Thanks Basic TrainingI’d stand stiff as a rifle under the sun’s disciplinebarking “no excuse,...

Please write an explication of Basic Training by Sherman Pearl

I am having trouble with this.  Thanks

Basic Training
I’d stand stiff as a rifle under the sun’s discipline
barking “no excuse, sir”
whatever the drill sergeant shouted
“no excuse” was the answer; sickness and death
and the end of the world were not
valid reasons for the scuffs on my boots,
for the tarnished buttons, the sag in my posture
when I started to wilt
there was no forgiving the weakness that tried
to explain, spit alibis back
there was only
the sharp salute and the gun-shot click of the heels
that killed the pride I came with
and I scrubbed the pots till the excuses were gone
and shot at excuses till I hit the bull’s-eye
and kept on marching
while the excuses I walked on blistered and burst
and oh my son
it was learning to surrender that made me soldier
I wish you could stand with me now
on the gravel of this barren parade ground
we’d face each other, stomachs tucked in, boots buffed
into mirrors that reflect the sky
we’d stare straight ahead
and miss the bullets that fire from our eyes
and the bayonets pointed at our hearts;
we’d stand nose to nose, faces so close we’d be able
to smell the fear on our breaths
we’d shout “no excuse” so strongly
the words would cover our wounds like scar tissue
we’d salute one another
we’d click.

by Sherman Pearl

From page 7 of the August 2001 printing of The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review

Asked on by cbmills

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Sherman Pearl is a former journalist turned poet who has achieved international acclaim for his work. This poem, "Basic Training," is a simple picture of military life and structure which becomes much more intimate as the work progresses. All of the rigors of transforming a man into a soldier are listed here: polishing boots to pass inspection, making no excuses for anything, standing interminably at attention, doing menial and mindless tasks, marching and finishing without falling or failing. Each of these tasks are designed to make the man surrender self in order to become a soldier: 

it was learning to surrender that made me [a] soldier

This poem is addressed to the soldier's son, and it becomes personal when he expresses his wish that his son could stand next to him "on this barren parade ground." Years after his own basic training, the narrator expresses his longing for that same experience of breaking and building for his son. What made him a man would do the same for his son. 



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