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Sunday, May 25, 2008


WALKING GUARD DUTY around a Quonset hut of ammunition on the Marine Corps Air Station, Oahu, my high school ring tapping the barrel of a loaded M-14 rifle. Possible racial and anti-war riots threaten the base. Tropical stars trigger memories. The major in boot camp warned me that this ring would snag and pull my finger off when jumping from a helicopter in Nam. Instead of going to West Pac, I got stuck driving a "six-by" truck in California until boredom spurred a transfer request, which could have led to the Tet Offensive, not here to paradise. First week on the Rock, the sunburn from bodysurfing, tasting poi (the glue-like brown paste made from taro), hearing stories on the base from Marines, and on liberty in Waikiki from soldiers and sailors on R & R, about rumors of Russian tanks crossing the DMZ, moments of unspeakable terror beside hours of boredom. Alcohol-induced loose tongues, like the kid in the bar so juiced he removed the prosthetic mask covering what was left of his face from falling on a grenade. He stuck the plastic fa├žade on someone's arm and watched him flick it off like some dead alien in a sci-fi film. A faint steel guitar playing Hawaiian music wafts through swaying palms just ahead of the approaching change of guard. “Halt, who goes there?”
About a year later, while SCUBA diving off the base near an old firing range, I lose my senior ring.

the military beach
a crab with one claw

w. f. owen
(small events: haibun by w. f. owen,
Red Moon Press, 2007, p. 20)

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