He is on his way to death-by-heat-stroke,

cooking from inside out, thermostat busted

by fucking stress, dirty combat, too many pounds.


A Navy corpsman—the Marine Corps uses the Navy

to take care of its wounded[1]—twice our weight, humping

with us, south of Khe Sanh, beneath 130-degree steel sky.


Medivac chopper is inbound to grab his fat-boy body,

but now he needs water—all available water—

to try to kick his temperature off its thousand-meter hilltop.


All of us are dry—deadly, armed, and dying for even filthy,

pissed-in water, but have to pour what little we have on this

Fucking New Guy—who should never have been with us.


An officer yells: Bagwell! Get all the full canteens you can find! 

I float a hundred or so yards back, along the hot ghostly jungle

trail, litteredwith our combat debris, hallucinating

the taste of fresh cool water.

I grab all the canteens I can find—including my own. 

I swallow my fill, bloat my belly. I flutter back and

watch the rest run down the sagging, fat, flesh.


For seconds, the red dirt darkens, and then it is dry again.

I stole water from a dying human being:

I live with my choice daily.


Fucking new guy.

Fucking thirst.

Fucking me.

Fucking war.

[1] The Marine Corps does not have chaplains or medical staff, using Navy officers and enlisted sailors for these roles.


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