My Dad is on jungle patrol near Buna late at night.
He hears the anxious farting of a Japanese patrol
And a silhouetted figure looms with menace in his sight.
“I.D. yourself, goddammit,” thinks my father, sick in soul,
The answer sounds like leather on the muzzle of a gun.
Dad feels the vomit in his throat and closes both his eyes.
He doesn’t see the flash of his exploding Tommy Gun.
The silhouette collapses with a gasp of sharp surprise.
It’s too dark to see so Dad crumples to the ground
And hugs the Tommy to his face and feels the muzzle’s heat.
The jungle now is quiet and the only human sound
Is the ghastly, gurgled groaning of that silhouetted heap.
Dad pulls the Tommy closer and tries to close his ears.
The moaning ebbed and flowed throughout the endless night.
Dad thinks of Oneonta and the sweetly passing years
Of youth, and closes his eyes against the coming of the light.
When comes the grayness of the dawn he opens both his eyes
And sees the Japanese boy, chalky white, and still.
His blood has seeped throughout the night and now he lies,
A cold and vacant shell. He is Dad’s first wartime kill.
The teen-ager was gut shot and died in agonizing
Misery. His face is youthful and unlined, even pretty,
But all Dad sees is an enemy uncompromising
In his love for Hirohito. Dad killed him without pity,
Though now as he beholds this carcass drained of blood,
It’s hard to ignore the common humanity
He shares with this dead stranger, pacified in the mud.
The war is a metastasis of insanity.