Near 4 a.m.—a firefight infernos the jungle.
I’m dead asleep in a shallow hole yards behind where the M-60
machine gun nests, pointed outward, part of the mad night’s circle
perimeter; a dirty, blue-eyed gunner is pulling the warm, worn trigger.
I hear the -60 fire, but vague and distant and dreamy.
My mind and body are exhausted. I know I should be up and
scrambling to the gun but I lay dreamily flat:
stupidly free of combat fright.
The sounds barely register. Inches from my face, tracer-rounds streak
the black jungle iridescent green. Black jungle as lighted carnival.
Angry Broadway lighted with killing colors and screaming sounds.
I line the ledge above my head with every grenade I carry.
I pray to the gods of my youth.
I tumble back into untroubled sleep.
In the morning, they threaten to court martial me.
I knew they wouldn’t: no Marines had been wounded or killed.
And, more importantly, they needed my body in the bush.