Standard Issue

It was a slideshow
that we had to watch
in Navy boot camp,  
the one that displayed
the graphic results
of horny sailors
who’d gone off-base
and picked up women,
sometimes men,
sometimes men
who looked like women—
and in the process 
picked up Gonorrhea, 
Chancroid, Syphilis, 
the works—and it was 
highly effective.

Not that I needed
any convincing:
my chances of meeting
with a hooker were zero,
much less the lady-boys of Guam. 

But unlike most of my fellow
recruits, I wasn’t homo- 
or transphobic, and didn’t 
assume that hermaphrodites
and others who were different 
were inherently ‘unsafe’—
nevertheless, you’d never 
get me drunk enough.

As for the active duty 
men and women
who had been unsafe,
their misfortunes
were put on display 
to serve as a warning
to eighty recruits
who were graduating
in less than a week.

The photographs 
of their horrid symptoms
had been taken
by the medical officers
who treated them.

My grandfather
never photographed 
the dozens of G.I.s 
he had to treat
while serving 
as an Army medic
in London during WWII, 
but when he told me about it
before I left for boot camp,
he didn’t need photos. 
His verbal descriptions 
alone were enough.

“Keep it in your 
pants, son.”

But the sailors
in the slideshow...
We sat in the dark classroom, 
struggling to keep our eyes open,
while our company commander, 
Chief Petty Officer Bodie, 
commented in his 
gravelly voice... 

“Young, dumb,
and full o’ cum...”

“Don’t pay for that
pussy, boys...”

“Lucas! Wake up!”

... as he clicked 
through the drips, 
the rashes, the warts, 
the tips that had to be excised
to prevent the lesions 
from spreading, leaving 
the patients “nonoperational” 
for weeks, even months.

Then there was AIDS. 
The crisis was exploding.
And how did the Chief
address that crisis?
By talking about John Holmes,
the porn actor who had just died 
from AIDS-related illness...

“Holmes was bangin’ women, boys. 
This ain’t no ‘queer disease’ now.” 

The man was callous, 
but his lesson was clear:
“Jimmy-sacks, gentlemen... 
Get ‘em and use ‘em!” 

And the class was over.
The recruit closest 
to the light switch 
jumped out of his seat 
and flipped it on. 
We popped tall and 
stood at attention

as Chief Bodie sounded off
with Navy Regulations against 
“damage or destruction 
of government property,”

which meant that our dicks
belonged to Uncle Sam,
like everything else 
that was hanging off of us.
And we were not allowed
to get them infected.

Supplied with images
of abscessed genitals,
we filed out of the classroom, 
lined up into formation, 
and marched straight
to the mess hall.

“Time for some of that 
great Navy chow!”

And one more thing
was added to the list of reasons 
why Navy Recruiters 
were assholes.
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