By Jay Powell
Surrender your free will to the machine.
That is the act performed,
when you enlist or accept a commission
and take the oath to obey,
They don’t tell you that,
when you are 16 or 17 or 18 or 19 years young.
Your brain, no matter how incredibly brilliant,
is not fully formed and hooked together (scientific fact).
You are still a babe,
whether you know it or not.
The recruiter (not just the individual who hands you the pen to sign, but
the machinery that promises to fill whatever void you might imagine)
does not tell you what horrors might occur for you – but will certainly occur for some who later stand beside you
(take the oath).
Without your sworn oath, the machine cannot
accomplish its purpose – preserve and defend,
without question of the means
the orders within the
(St. Peter smiles proudly in innocence)
It is a beauty to see the orders
echo off the pavement
impressive is the silent
Each assigned a different or same motion on
pivots, stomps, slaps
then speed to stop
As the pearl handled sword spins,
signaling completion and crescendo
21, 60 year old rifles salute
(this time paper not lead flies from the barrels),
Sgt Piel remarks:
“Everyone wants to play Marine,
but no one wants to be
But some did
warrior in service to
(insert here known list of friends and the names etched on the black wall
and the too long and not truly or completely known list of those wandering the streets of America, carrying ghosts of many beyond our shores in their mornings, nights and turns around any corner on any day without warning)
to soldier on
and dispatch their oath and their even more
to care for
even if it
their minds or
their limbs or
or all of
(I sing of )
(resting finally in peace, I pray)
Jay Powell is a member of the San Diego “Hugh Thompson” Chapter of Veterans for Peace. His poem is a recollection of a drill team command during the era of the Vietnam “conflict.” It was inspired by various reviews of books of fiction and fact about the more recent undeclared wars in the Middle East in the special “War All the Time” feature of Bookforum, Summer 2014.