From schoolyard scrapes to wartime nicks
on through a heal-thyself bachelorhood
lasting 13 days shy of four decades,
one constant equaled only by Mom's love
was a red genie from finger-sized jar

Neon balm dripped from its magic wand
cleaned, dried and scabbed the day's cuts
as I slept and by the morn I was ready for
more of same with no need of gauze or
bandage that keep wet what ought be dry

Of course, flesh-tone band-aids blend with
skin that genie stains with polka dots of
neon red for all to see, which reminds
of what nuns taught happens to souls
tinctured with life's sins, mortal and venial

At war, especially, 12-hour workdays atop
white-concrete runways under tropical sun
caused sweat that would loosen band-aids
within an hour, not to mention daily splashes
of engine oil, hydraulic fluid and jet fuel

Carroty polka dots blend with skin burnt
bronze by blast-furnace sun bounced off
white concrete, whereas those coppery dots
dabbed on fishbelly-white skin of civilian life
call attention to what band-aids hide

Alasthe FDA under Clinton banned genie
in fear of mercury poisoningso end-users
can find only limp-wristed impostors which
spray on goo that costs more, does less,
yet leave no red badge of courage

Most missed are not the neon spots
that drew others' eyes to my scabs
but rather the sting felt on applying balm
that causes me to whiplash cut finger,
pain proving worth of the Red Devil

*     *     *
Bottle of mercurochrome
Mercurochrome red cross