Home Up

(Tactical Operations Center)

so often i could see the boy shining through the façade of manhood
as you tried to be the first to yell out the name of the team
who won the world series in 1950

but not this morning as I watched you attach
grenades and canteens to web gear,
sling bandoleers of ammo across your broad shoulders
check your M-16s for peak performance

it was hard to fathom that you would soon be carrying
those heavy rucks
and M60
through miles of rice paddies
using the bug juice to coax off the leeches

no, today there would be no time to play donut dollie games
today it was necessary for you to be men
but, even as you donned your warrior gear
and steel pots adorned with
peace symbols
and “short”
you still had smiles for us

the best we could do for you today was smile back
take pictures
remind you that you weren’t animals
and walk down to the pick up point with you
to wait for the choppers

i don’t know how long we sat in that field
doing the donut dollie alternative to programming
“where ‘ya  from?
what’s your favorite food?
favorite sport?
who’s your favorite actress?”

i do remember that one kid from your company
pulled a branch from a nipa palm tree
and wove me a hat as easily as
a donut dollie made kool-aid

i remember the choppers landing
watching you jump on
and waving until you were completely out of sight
before we moved on to play games with the next company

later that day we were visiting the guys in the TOC
making jokes and laughing
when your call came in

i did not understand all of the code words
but understood enough to know you were
calling in fire support
and dustoffs

somewhere deep inside,
i added another sandbag to the bunker
i was building around my heart
and put on my eleanor rigby face
that i kept in the jar by the door
as we moved on to play games with
the next company

emily strange
© 1999

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