Grace under Pressure

U.S. Marine, Iwo Jima, 1945

When the potato masher hand grenade
flew in the hollow, Mark, the quiet boy,
looked at me with such sorrow. Then he lay
down on the thing. He knew his death would buy
our lives, and so he spent it all, just tossed
his future in the pot like a big spender
in Vegas. Damn him, who can pay that loss
off? I can’t. “Neither borrower nor lender”
was what my pop taught me. For what he gave
with rag doll arms spread wide when the bomb blew
him off the earth, I kissed his dirty face,
closed his dead eyes. I knew I had to live
my life a cleaner way, the way he flew
into the sky (before he fell). With grace.

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