On a wet day in a land mostly dry,
on a day dimmed where life normally glared,
our 12-man squadron was decimated.
I walked point, a two-by-two formation,
through a valley slice. “Incoming!” First whine,
then scream, the air singed, creosote acrid,
land roiling, men thrown skyward combusting,
shrapnel blown from a gnarled hand as petals
through limbs, severed then, cauterizing next.
Concussed, minutes, moments later, I saw
eleven depressions where men once lived.
Now, PTSD cracked, I carry them:
Day, my prosthetic pounding nails in nerves;
Night, my stump jolting, they my phantom pain.
Steve Gerson, an emeritus English professor, writes poetry about life’s dissonance and dynamism. He’s proud to have published in Panoplyzine (winning an Editor’s Choice award), The Hungry Chimera, Toe Good, The Write Launch, Ink & Voices, Duck Lake, and Coffin Bell.
Photo by Huib Scholten.