When the enemy starts shooting at you,
It's like you're the only actor on stage.
Each head swivels like a gun turret,
Every eye has spotted you,
All sights are fixed on you,
And all muzzles are trained on you ...
Only on you.
But don't get nervous in the service;
They're just like you,
One of many,
Ranked and filed.
But what's their formation?
What's their plan?
Who knows the right answer?
This stage fright is nothing like practice.
No one tried to kill us in training.
What a lark ...
Just stand on your head, and pretend.
It's hard to pretend with bullets cracking!
My personal magnetism must attract them!
Every round must have MY name etched on it!
Every part of me feels like a shrinking bull's-eye!
If everything wouldn't overlap,
If things didn't happen at the same time,
Then there'd be time to think.
There'd be time to scheme.
There'd be time to act ...
Instead of not acting or reacting,
Instead of missing cues and dropping lines.
If this chaotic scene lasted any longer,
Then you might not feel so exposed,
Then you might not feel so inept,
Then you might not feel so unmanned.
But it must be obvious to everyone
That the outside conflict has moved inside.
Everyone around you must be embarrassed,
And trying not to make things worse.
Every thought battles with some precept.
Every instinct combats some directive.
Every muscle opposes some other movement.
Every impulse contends with every other,
Until an eon elapses in a split-second.
And you are astonished to still be alive!
We want things to make sense,
So, even when the world turns upside down,
We find reasons for it.
Their flock shooting will miss our
We can dodge hot shrapnel,
And we can out-run speeding bullets.
We can hide behind a twig, or stone, or clump,
Or crawl inside our own helmets!
And when we get hit, it had to be luck;
Because our beliefs are strong,
Our thoughts are pure,
Our motives are high,
Our intentions are good ...
And bad luck would ruin the script.
And when all we find are blood trails,
We're amazed at how far we've come
In so little time,
By doing exactly
What we've been trained to do.
And, like a curtain falling
On an epic performance,
With the thunder of cheers
And the sharp snaps of applause
Still ringing in our ears,
We leave our combatant characters
Posed like ghosts on a limelit stage;
And begin to recover our own personas.
We look around at each other in transition;
Relinquishing our roles,
And remembering ourselves.
We blink at the stage setting,
Admiring its verisimilitude;
And noticing that some troupers
Are not getting up.
The star commends a bit-player,
While others revise or replay their parts.
Every performance gains or looses a few.
While some are already rehearsing
A tragic or comedic role for the future,
This dramatic skirmish was the swan song
For a few troupers ...
Too soon to be forgotten.
Now, where's the dressing room?
And what time is the cast party?!
Aren't we scheduled to do this again sometime?
by Viktor von Bruderkin
... who is a former Marine, a war veteran, an amateur poet and