By Lynn Norton, Air Force
Writing Type: Poem
Drab clothing, shaved head, serried bunk and toilet, emblems
of military inductees, untouchable caste. Sentenced
to meaningless toil, degrading rites of passage. Loss of will,
privacy, dignity. Erasure of self. Deemed “lower than
whale shit” by shrieking drill-instructors. “Give me twenty!”
Sleeve with a single stripe, first rung on ladder
to elevated caste. Limited choice and movement,
relief from torturous training. Common laborer
conditioned to learn murderous craft. Heed advice.
“Keep your head down.”
Second stripe, higher rung, awarded sectioned barracks,
partitioned toilet, better chow. Leisure time, amusements
in venues commensurate to caste. Refine skills,
become a craftsman, dependable source
of putative violence. Follow orders. “Ignore your fear.”
Three stripes earn a rung with segregated housing,
dining choices. Responsibility to plan, lead, relay dictates
from superior castes. Supervise but no longer socialize.
Trade privilege, resources to fuel the engine of combat.
Develop a muscular voice.
“Kill the bastards and piss on their remains.”
More stripes, higher elevation. Warrior, avenger, ruling caste
with mortal power. Manager of battlefields. Dutifully listen
to priestly castes above but do what experience demands.
“Keep your head down. Ignore your fear.
Kill the bastards and piss on their remains.
Take no prisoners.”