F.P. Siedentopf
MGYSGT, United States Marine Corps (Ret)

The sea breeze brings a bit of chill as the darkness settles in, or perhaps it’s the chill of fear.

There’s light from a drifting mortar flare, an omen that the Dying Time is near.

We’ve set our mines and crouch low in the bunkers under a star filled tropic sky.

Will Charlie lose, or will it be me who calls false tails now that the Dying Time draws nigh?

Each night the landscape flickers with the flares and our tracers slay the shadows.

Morning sweeps find no blood, but Charlie is out there somewhere, we know.

Mortar rounds found our camp in his early hit-and-run ‘cause Charlie needs his sleep.

In his day job he cuts our hair or cleans our huts and those are jobs he means to keep.

In daylight war moves away from camps and Charlie hides in plain sight.

He relaxes until once again he starts the clock for the Dying Time at night.

Each night we suffer little deaths, each time a mortar strikes, each time a round is fired.

The Dying Time can kill you quick, but most die slow, worn out, and tired.

That was forty years ago and I left without a wound, but I left there twice as old.

I still feel the Dying Time in the night, at my shoulder dark and cold.