Once A Soldier

That instant along the Cambodian border

when the tip of his right index finger

curled deftly into the comfortable curve of metal,

for the first time in his life he truly touched

the slick sleazy finger of evil

 

At eighteen he was ordained a soldier,

a soldier always at twenty-eight or eighty,

forever to act and think himself

a soldier, a private, a platoon leader

 

In malls and grocery stores and ballparks

the soldier he has become stalks in stealth beside him

For the rest of that first day, for the rest of all his days,

eyes fixed in the back of his head,

he knows he can take out any man who dares him

 

Hard wired, ready to explode,

once a soldier, always a soldier,

he is condemned to wear the uniform,

to endure cold and heat, hunger and thirst,

to obey and protect

 

Now his war is over, he alone knows

the secrets churning in his thoughts,

why he marches “left right, left right”

along school yards where children play,

why he struggles to passionately kiss the woman he loves;

 

why brothers and old friends do not understand

why he cannot drink and laugh with them

at backyard barbeques, on New Year’s Eve;

knows it will always be his job to find, stalk and kill,

why he still plots how best to take another life

 

“Yessir!” is what he’s drilled to answer

“Yessir!” sounds the bugle of his daydreams

“Yessir! is the man he’ll always be

 

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