One Time (August, 1952)

This is the eighth poem of the series and as in all of the poems in this collection, it is intended to capture the voice of a veteran who’s been in the center of action on the front line


One Time (August, 1952)


There was this time I volunteered –
it happened after our corsairs
dropped napalm bombs, melted
the air and jellied the ground like toast;
anyone close enough, it smelt.
I was a hill away, and under-
neath my gear, my shirt was drenched
in seconds from that wall of heat
a mile thick. The planes veered back,
swooping away like swallows
in the evening after bugs.
Then the snipers hit.


How did those bastards do it?
They should have been dissolved into
the ground. Curious as my commander,
I got myself all muddy – hair,
face, hands (was half way there
already), packed grenades, then shotguns
for close range and sneaked into the North
Koreans’ trenches. We blended in;
my buddy ‘cause he looked like them,
and me, I kept my helmet down.
We elbowed our way through a thousand men


only to find we was the same
as them and that night there is why
my heart’s still disconnected from
my mind.
                  But we found their secret:
Tunnels underneath the lines,
made by all them Chinese lackeys –
two million had “joined” by then –
hauling out two million buckets
full of earth. Inside the tunnels
they’d block the exits, so the napalm


wouldn’t liquefy their skin,
and when the planes retreated, they’d open
up the tunnel, pop up and shoot
at us across the line. Once
we saw how those damn moles
were sniping through our nape attacks
we worked our way back south, reported in
and never volunteered again.