I I was a Marine Corps volunteer at young age 17—a child soldier from America.
My parents had to sign my enlistment papers.
An excellent garrison Marine, combat left me wretched.
I could never sandbag away the harshness of the killing life.
‘God and Country’ morphed in my gut to cheap and sordid.
I was growing gruesome hands and a killing heart.
I was losing pride in simple dirty hardship.
Fading was my parade-ground joy at bodies in harmonic motion.
Totally gone was my sightless naiveté of what I’d been mythed to be:
an automaton of death, hardened, skin-clad, inhumanity
born in the jaded jungle war zone of kids killing kids.
II Discharged at 20, tumorous spirits, red-livid with ugly anger, I wandered—
hyper and hurting—mind frayed—emotions deformed—
grieving life barren and crushingly suborned by what I couldn’t name:
a man-made malady no one wanted to hear.
III Long years passed slowly. I walked dirt roads. I haunted dark bars.
I married and married and married again. Then I epiphanied.
I gained the goal of long ago: I became a lifer, not in sharp Marine dress blues nor
bloodied torn jungle camouflage. I became a lifer—long-haired, long-bearded—
in the never-ceasing war against American war.