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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 8: June 2021
Poem: 136 words
By William Heath

G.I. Joe in Naples, 1944

for John Horne Burns
 
1.
Houses try to climb 
the surrounding hills, 
slide instead into the harbor 
while Vesuvius smokes 
in the background. 
Liberty Ships cram 
the broad Bay of Naples. 
Children eat black bread, 
sleep on the sidewalks 
Limeys take tea 
at outdoor cafes, 
watch streetwalkers 
jiggling their wares. 
They call soldiers “Joe,” 
walk in pairs singing 
“Chattanooga Choo-Choo.” 
Shoeshine boys near Via Diaz 
and Galleria Umberto sell 
Stars and Stripes for a dime, 
their sisters for a dollar, 
a stick of bubblegum. 

2.
It is one of those 
war-torn love stories—
spirochete meets 
penicillin and makes 
a separate peace. 
In the clap shack 
they shoot him up 
around the clock—
stab each shoulder, 
left butt, right butt, 
day in, day out, 
every three hours, 
sixty shots 
in eight days. 

 

William Heath
Issue 8, June 2021

is a poet, novelist, historian, and scholar. More than a hundred of his poems have appeared in a variety of literary magazines and anthologies; the finest are collected in The Walking Man (Icarcus Books, 1994) and in his chapbook Night Moves in Ohio (Finishing Line Press, 2019). His most recent chapbook, Leaving Seville (2020), comprises poems from his time in Seville and time he spent in Catalonia with his wife, Roser, a native of Barcelona.

Heath is also the author of three novels. His first, The Children Bob Moses Led (Milkweed Editions, 1995; paperback, 1997), about the civil rights movement in Mississippi, won the Hackney Literary Award for best novel, was nominated by the publisher for the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize, and was nominated by Joyce Carol Oates for the Ainsfield-Wolf Award. In 2002, Time magazine online judged it one of the eleven best novels of the African-American experience. In 2014, it was reissued as a twentieth-anniversary edition by NewSouth Books.

His second novel, Blacksnake’s Path: The True Adventures of William Wells (Heritage Books, 2008; ebook, Argo-Navis, 2013), which tells the story of an unsung hero of the American frontier, was nominated for the James Fennimore Cooper Award for the best historical novel and chosen by the History Book Club as an alternate selection in 2009. Devil Dancer (Somondoco Press, 2013), Heath’s third novel, is a neo-noir tale about the shooting of a stallion in Lexington, Kentucky.

In addition, he is the author of two nonfiction books: Conversations with Robert Stone (University Press of Mississippi, 2016; paperback, 2018); and a work of history, William Wells and the Struggle for the Old Northwest (University of Oklahoma Press, 2015), the latter of which won two Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America for best Historical Nonfiction book and best first Nonfiction book, and was a finalist for the Ohioana Award for best book by an Ohioan and/or about Ohio as well as the Jon Gjerde Prize for Midwestern History.

Heath’s reviews and scholarly essays are published in The Massachusetts Review, The South Carolina Review, The Kenyon Review, The Texas Review, Nathaniel Hawthorne Review, The Journal of American Studies, The Indiana Magazine of History, and Northwest Ohio History, among others.

He taught American literature and creative writing at Kenyon, Transylvania, Vassar, and the University of Seville, where he was a Fulbright Professor for two years. In 1981, he began teaching at Mount Saint Mary’s University, where he served as faculty advisor for the college’s award-winning magazine, Lighted Corner; in addition, he edited a national literary magazine, The Monocacy Valley Review. He retired, in 2007, as a professor emeritus in the English Department.

Author’s website: www.williamheathbooks.com

 
 
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