The Flying 63rd

by Carlos Reyes

for Bill Byers

When you stepped from the barracks
you double-timed, day or night
whatever your destination…

That was until four EMs suffering
heat exhaustion fell out of formation
with heart attacks and collapsed
before medics arrived to save them.

Those days if you even looked like
you were about to break
into a brisk walk, you faced
a court martial…

We shuffled along in route step
looking like GIs furloughed off
stumbling fatigued after a battle
to safety behind the lines, after

fourteen hours – crawling through mud
under barbed war towards live rounds
of machine gun fire through clouds of tear
and invisible poison gas, and an ambush –

threatened with: keep your ass movin’
next stop Korea, soldier

Not everybody was eager
to follow MacArthur into battle
and cross the 38th parallel.

Numbed by all the basic training, training
we sleep-walked back toward the barracks
mumbling as we passed beneath the image

of two GIs hanging over us
from the base watertower. Still dancing
in the onshore breeze the bitter end, the rope.