I. Rat-a-tat! Rat-a-tat!
Ping! Ping! Ping!
Boom!
 
“Take cover!”
 
Quick-stepping
between low-lying shrubs,
he zig-zagged
across the pock-marked road,
gunning for the scorched tank
a lifetime away.
Once beside the hallowed metal,
Sarge flew to the sandy earth
and added his own rendition
to the guerillas’ serenade.
 
Plink! Plink! Plink!
Tat! Tat! Tat!
Splat!
 
“Corpsman!”
 
II. For 104 weeks
he had dodged and weaved,
eluding the Purple Heart
with each endless foray
into the heat and dust.
Until this last venture,
when the carbine’s issue
finally connected,
blasting
into his right jaw
and lolloping about before
blowing
through the jowl,
spewing
tissue and bone.
 
Vaguely, he swiped at his cheek,
staining his fingers
as chunks of flesh
slithered
onto his kevlar’d chest.
 
Man. Monster.
Ying. Yang.
Villain. Hero.
War. Peace?
 
The whoosh whoosh whoosh
of the Desert Duck
was the last thing he heard
as the final curtain
of his career was pulled.
 
III. Amid the hustle and bustle
of the staging unit,
between the to-ing and fro-ing
of the gowned and masked,
he lay on the gurney,
silent and motionless,
while his wife
clung
to the metal rails.
 
“Hugs and kisses”
fell from the surgeon’s lips,
jarring
in its simple request,
as Sarge’s gaze winged briefly
to his wife’s.
 
“Let’s just go,”
he clipped
and turned his face away,
tucking the mutilated half
into the pillow beneath his head.
 
And she,
with her crooked pants
and unbuttoned shirt
with her raccoon eyes
and unwashed hair,
she loosened
her white-knuckled grip
and stepped aside,
allowing the surgical party
to proceed
along the long, cold corridor.
 
She stood alone,
staring,
as the chirr, chirr, chirr
of the gurney’s wheels
echoed back.
 
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