Cover Design: Robin Evens, EvenDesign
Cover Photograph: Rick Bursky
ADVICE FOR SOLDIERS
Overrunning an objective is a short-lived euphoria
lasting no longer than the snap of a flag,
slap of two hands coming together in applause,
at best the duration of ejaculation.
Before troops are allowed to remove their boots and socks
to clean blood from between their toes, slice blisters from heels;
before troops are allowed to remove their helmets,
pull photographs of girlfriends from wallets and kiss them,
or inhale breaths exceeding three seconds,
the objective must be secured, cleansed of all but the obvious dead,
inspected for booby traps, landmines and contaminated water.
Just because your troops occupy a landscape
that previously hosted men who while cooking soup
in tin cans discussed expeditious methods
of your death, or while squatting over a slit trench
joked about the odor of your fear, the odd shape
of your face, width of your eyes; that you now stand
on ground slept on perhaps for weeks by men
who cannot understand your motives and believe
you are being tricked and misled into hating them;
none of this means anything, least of all that you won.
The objective must be secured. Dead enemy soldiers
cannot be trusted and must be again slain.
If conserving ammunition is a priority over expedience
the dead can be bayoneted, burnt in large pits
or run over by heavy vehicles.
Close with the enemy, strangle the body
of his formation until it shudders and suffocates.
(Think history holding its breath
until everyone who remembers is gone.)
Advance through fire and maneuver,
the constant repetition of shooting and moving,
masking intention with commotion, the blanket
of a man's fear; the principle elements
of combat that assure an enemy's humiliation,
assure his capture, assure his death,
the principles that repel his assaults,
leave mud that once caked your soldiers' boots
on the dance floor of the enemy's propaganda.
Possibilities on the battlefield can be predicted
using Sherman's Formula of Dread: fire power
divided by quartermaster ratios
multiplied by hesitation.
Caution, pencils tend to tear damp paper.
Caution, the lamp must be at the foxhole bottom.
(Oh, calculations are difficult for cold fingers.)
When considering the speed of march
always subtract the pitch at shrapnel hits.
The distortion on the morale of troops
resembles a swollen lip.
The weight of combat is overwhelming
and carried on the backs of men who enter.
There are various classes of soldiers.
The qualities of each should never be underestimated,
this alone is the principal issue
in victory. No matter which class
you command you must distract them
from the nagging qualities of death.
© 2004 by Rick Bursky
The Soup of Something Missing<