As You Were Cover

Grunt

by John Saylor

Volunteered to win the war; ignored the
     news. Who was keeping score?
          High school sweetie: a Teenage Queen
               traded for an M-16.

Humping the boonies with a plan:
     Intervals between each man;
          survival’s edge marked by extra
                frags, colored smoke, and
                     fifteen mags.

Suffocation, killing
     heat, ringworm itch, and
          soggy feet.

“Mission’s sacred.”
     “We’re on track.”
          “Take that hill.”
               “Now give it back.”

“Arty short round.”
     They’re losing trust and digging deeper.
          “They’ll adjust.”

Walking point was the warrior
     Sporting a K-bar as the last resort.

“Hearts and minds.”
     We’re making nice.
          “Leave the rations.”
               “Take the rice.”

Give and take from village
     elders whose side depends on
          who or what they can hide.

“Rounds incoming!"
     “Someone’s hit!”
          Shouting. Shooting. In “the shit” where
               The AKs were tracking, the shrapnel
                    Cracking, and I peed my pants.

“Airstrike, inbound!”
     What’s the fuss?
          Will they know it’s them—or us?

“Charlie’s leaving.”
     Post-fight jitters and napalm
         perfume: “Crispy critters.”
              Night security, noises, and scares.

Stars and Stripes: “We Won the Fight!”
     (“But stay inside the wire at night.”)

Going home.
     Gave all I’ve got.
          Souvenir’d with jungle rot.
               Spared the wounds—the body bag.
                    Wiser now.
                         Next war comes, they’re sending you.