Posted: May 23, 2014 in Poetry
Tags: , , , , , ,

Carnathy 1


Walked the narrow streets
of Colon last night,
boldy wearing the blue SP armband,
nightstick twirling, my 5-foot 2-inch skinny ass
flanked by two of the biggest Marines
I had ever seen.
Feeling cocky in the Caribbean,
a world away from the fray in Vietnam.
‘Round about midnight,
prodding the drunks back to the ship,
we spied a young Marine sitting in the doorway
of a century-old storefront, sobbing .

“God, God! Where are you?” he cried.
“God, God, where are you?”
Over and over he slurred the words
between garbled bits of barely audible sighs.

One of the Marine SPs, recognizing his friend,
bent over him, placing a hand on his shoulder.
“Carnathy, what’s wrong, man?”
Carnathy had blood on his blouse and a cut
on his distorted, drunken face.
“He’s dead!” Carnathy wailed.
“My buddy – they killed him!”
“Who, man?” the Marine asked.
“He had no name and
he looked just like me.
He’s dead!”

Carnathy convulsed into
a stream of nonstop sobs,
then screamed,
“I told him God was dead
and he believed me!”

The Marine SPs helped him to his feet.
Carnathy slumped in their arms,
repeating his wail,
“I told him God was dead
and he believed me!”
They walked him back toward the ship,
strong arms tenderly lifting,
gently helping him along.

“Carnathy sometimes gets like this,”
his friend told me as I tagged behind.
“He used to be religious
until he got freaked out and lost God
in a bunker during a mortar attack.”

As the ship grew in sight,
Carnathy straightened,
yelled and jerked away,
stumbling, running for the darkness.
We chased him, found him huddled,
hiding in a clump of bushes.
He came up swinging,
but his drunken assault
was no match for
sober wits and nightsticks.

His friends dragged him back to the ship.
“Take me, take me to my death!”
Carnathy cried.
“Go ahead, you bastards, God is dead!
God sucks! I want to die!”

The next day, Carnathy was flown to
a hospital and a discharge in San Juan.
I was on the ships’ fantail,
gossiping over morning coffee,
when I learned that just before
we found him Carnathy
had been in a fight with
a lifer he had tried to convince of
God’s absence from the world.
The lifer called him a weak crybaby
and a disgrace to the Corps.

Just another day
protecting the Caribbean
from communism.

By David Allen
20 October 1967

NOTE: Here’s a Memorial Day poem from the archives.

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