Through it all, through basic’s first week of sunup jogs,
classes on military protocol and endless marching drills,
Private Danny pressed the little bible tightly in his hand,
and when left no choice stuffed it in a pocket.
This scrawny blond kid from a backwater burg in Ohio
hadn’t the guile or gall for pretense or malingering –
spoke rarely, smiled benignly, and did all he was asked to do –
which made things dicey for the brass to eject him.
Then came the morning on the firing range, Cease fire!
Cease fire! shrieked Sergeant Cruz for all he was worth,
flapping arms like crazy across the firing-line berm
as a body sprinted down-range against bullets flying.
No mistaking it was baby-face Danny, bible in hand,
his back to us, racing swiftly to the targets and beyond,
till our boy shrunk down to a speck in the wood-line,
undeterred in his higher mission – such as it was.
The soldier in Cruz took control, gave orders to our squad
to chase him down, who after all was one of us, and it was
one of us caught Danny skulking low in the brush,
and brought him back to be handed over.
We the warriors went on to shoot and drill and bivouac
without him, and I would’ve blotted him out entirely if it
wasn’t for the occasional annoyance of hearing his timid voice
rising through the whooosh-ing sound of the mortar round.
Paul Scollan, a native of Connecticut, is married with five adult sons, having worked over 30 years as a clinical social worker. His poetry finds its source and inspiration in his professional work, years of travel in Spanish-speaking countries, experience in the Vietnam War, and in the wonderful peculiarities of being from a large Irish-Catholic family. Poems have been published in The Connecticut River Review, Oasis Journal, Litchfield Review, Sow’s Ear, The William and Mary Review, and Mastodon Dentist #27. Antrim House Press published the first book of poetry entitled Liberty Street Hill, which was an Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist in 2012.