He stepped off the trail

a few meters with his rifle and his E-tool to take a shit when he tripped what must have been a booby-trapped bomb or artillery shell. One moment he was alive with a gut cramp and diarrhea, the next instant he was vaporized. When his remains were collected by his buddies and placed in a poncho, his squad leader carried him back to the LZ- his rifle in one hand, the poncho in the other like a bag of dirty socks. And so it all came down to this. Soon his mother would receive the "body" of her son who had left home three months before as a 170-pound Marine and whose remains now weighted less than the baby boy she had brought into this world just eighteen years before.

copyright © 1996 by John Musgrave, from his book "Under a Flare-lit Sky: Vietnam Poems," all rights reserved.