Peace Time

We gave it names
Like contact,
Movement or
Bringing scunnion.
We psyched ourselves up
Scowling, “Time to kick ass
And take names.”
But never talked about
The human beings.
This is how it worked:
They walked into our patrol
Or we walked into theirs
Or we ambushed them
Or they’d ambush us
Or we walked into each other
Or they hit us with mortars
Or overran us with sappers
Or booby-trapped our automatics
Or hit us with sniper fire
Or we called in Arty
Or Arc Light, Blue Max,
Rash or Snoopy.
That’s the way it went.
Wait.  Engage.  Disengage.
Between the contact and kicking ass
Or having our asses kicked was the tension.
It would start small, then build and build
Until we secretly prayed it would happen.
And then we’d walk into them
Or them into us, and so on and such
And the tension would explode
Like sex
And afterward was calm
And we’d be spent.
Days, weeks, nothing would happen,
Then terror, instant and deep
Then relief, like Paradise,
Since the killing was done
And the living had buried
The wounded and dead.
Then it’d start all over again.
That’s how it was.
That’s how we lived.
Though for some
That’s all there was and will be.
And never mind the human beings.
Never mind.


Marc Levy

Automatic : automatic ambush: Claymore mines detonated by a trip wire

Arty: heavy artillery

Arc Light:  B 52 strikes

Bringing scunnion: overwhelming firepower

Blue Max Cobra: gun ship

Rash:  a small, heavily armed fixed wing aircraft

Snoopy:  a heavily armed modified fixed wing aircraft

First published in Slant, 1999