The Cave

U.S. Marine, Iwo Jima, 1945

I was the torch man, and I liked it, strange
as that is to admit. It was the worst
thing in the world. I’d sneak up into range
and throw a flame in, just a burst. A burst
is all it takes. It sucks the oxygen
and then they burn alive or suffocate.
My mouth still tastes that taste, burnt flesh. Back then,
I felt nothing. I did my job. No hate,
no nothing. The men liked me, called me Hot Shot.
But it meant nothing when the Nips would rush
out, clothes on fire and smoking, and we’d shoot
them dead. It meant we lived. Nothing to gush
about. I don’t have anything to hide.
Nothing. I shoved it all down deep inside. 

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