38th Parallel

Once I lived in a village not far
from the thirty-eighth parallel
near Kaesong, in fact

The snow that February fell for days
blowing horizontally to the ground
hills and paddy fields filling with drifts

We lived, ten of us, in a hut
that smelled of kimchee and garlic
we huddled together on the warm floor

The sergeant in charge was from Chicago
a big-mouthed Irish guy from the South Side
he talked constantly about his gang back home

The North Koreans who ran the prison camp
grew to dislike the sergeant and our guys
we ate less and worked harder than the others

One night we talked it over with the sergeant
we told him that he had to compromise
and go along with our captors - or else

No doubt we angered him because
he got his Irish up and began striking out
an Italian guy from Hoboken put a shiv in him

We buried him next morning behind the messhall
the Korean in charge was pleased as punch
we ate better and worked a normal day

Today I often think of that hotheaded sergeant
who died in a foreign land because we were scared
and thought more of our own survival

User Rating: 3,0 / 5 ( 13 votes ) 11

Comments (11)

what you can get when your Irish gets up
Less men, less problem. It always happens at war, as well as in everyday life. Though disgasting as it is.
Once lived in a village; with the muse of life. Nice work.
Brutally honest and a remarkable read.
This is Korea, that fierce forgotten, hell hole in the winter, where only hate would not freeze up, a legacy of fear freezing the marrow of moral until Inchon and Douglas MacArthur got that miracle victory. So many murders so many true. An exceptionally well written poem.
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