Nancy L. Meek

RATTLING SOLDIERS

The camouflaged column of rattling soldiers
snaked slowly before the grunt, and behind;
and he, filled with strange boredom and fear
pondered on the one at the front of the line…
their pointman, his eyes sharp and darting,
searching the treeline, braced for the attack;
weapon locked and loaded, his ears pricked
with forty eyes behind burned into his back.

“I wonder what he’s thinkin’?”, the grunt mused,
as they wound past a mudhole in the trail,
as sweat dripped from his hair onto his neck,
tickling his flesh no longer soft and pale;
as shit-dipped punji stakes stood patiently
waiting at attention in the grass somewhere,
ready to pierce his boot, or perhaps his leg
or the ass of one wounded, falling unaware.

“I wonder if his adrenalin is pumpin’, too;
if his heart is doin’ double-time, like mine;
if his hands are clammy… his mouth dry;
if he’s thinkin’ of his girl at the end of the line
or that new muscle car he was hopin’ t’ buy;
or if he’s just thinkin’ of what’s lurkin’ ahead;
the mission in front of us… compellin’ us…”
Then, with the squeeze of a trigger, he was dead!

“Sniper in the trees!!” boomed the pointman,
as they dropped, crawled or ran for their lives,
each wanting to survive to fight another day,
to make it back home to their kids, their wives,
to the former lives they took for granted far away,
as the youth fell silent and still, eyes on the sky,
no longer wondering what any grunt was thinking,
no longer caring which one would be next to die.