Going to sleep

Going to sleep


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.

The gun is pointed outward, a mad part of the 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.


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