or were they
blue? White, red
ribbon everywhere —
But they were so small, plastic, barely three
inches across. They didn't look deadly. Two
soldiers wandered in, curious. One
said: "I wonder what would happen if…."
and gingerly tapped one
with the toe of his boot
which then evaporated in a pink frothy cloud,
a bubble gum pop, then cotton candy chunks
arcing lazily through the air
landing with little wet thumps
muffled by the sand.
Then, he died.
just like that
just that quickly.
One moment he was alive and curious
and the next, he was just a scattering.
But the second was still alive
And so, to help him, without thinking
others ran into that minefield
We too now running, and I, fastest, first, frozen
by the sight of so much crimson soaked clothing.
I didn't know where to start.
Covered with the essence of others,
later, I was
mistaken as a casualty myself.
But I would not let them take my uniform
they would still live as long as evidence
of them remained on my sleeves,
torn as they grasped for a few extra moments.
Excerpted from Operation Homecoming, by Andrew Carroll, editor. Copyright (c) 2006 by Southern Arts Federation. Reprinted by arrangement with The Random House Publishing Group.