Beach Landing, Iwo Jima

U.S. Marine, Iwo Jima, 1945

They didn’t shoot at us. A silent scene
until we clogged the beach, and then—all hell,
potato masher hand grenades, machine 
gun fire, artillery. I swear each shell
passed close enough you could reach up and catch
it like a ball. I crawled across black sand,
and used each corpse for cover. Don’t attach
yourself, is what I learned. Push it down and
crawl in a hole. Go numb, and you’ll survive,
maybe, as I survived. I didn’t hate
the man who charged me with his bayonet.
I crouched and shot him dead so I could live.
But the photo in his helmet cut my heart.
A child, smiling at me. And then I wept.

From Tongue of War: WWII Poems (BKMK Press, 2009) by Tony Barnstone. Copyright © 2009 by Tony Barnstone. Used with the permission of the author.