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Unconscientious Objector

by jlandwehr

In my military high school
we were taught that an M-16
was an air-cooled, gas-operated,
shoulder fired weapon with a
maximum effective range of
550 meters.
I never actually fired one
but try as I might,
I cannot unthink these facts.
On the rifle range we were given
.22 caliber rifles that weighed
as much as an anvil
from Paraguay
and instructed to hit targets
fifty feet away.
The targets looked
like gumdrops in an
acid-laced spirograph
and the gun sites
were as effective as using
a kaleidescope to find a
toilet plunger
in a rainforest.
We were issued ear protection
-muffs that made us
look like submarine pilots
in the Baltic sea
on a Tuesday morning
in September.
The shots
fired around me,
. . . . . . beside me
. . . . . . . . . . . . . under my armpits
. . . . . . between my legs
echoed and pinballed
inside my cranium
like burnt popcorn seeds
in a blender
without a lid.
I flinched and blinked
at inopportune times
trying to time my shots
to the narrowing circular
pattern of my gun barrel
disguised as the flagpole
raised at Iwo Jima.
When I was done
the Sergeant
looked at my results
like a cancer diagnosis
shook his crew cut head
laughed his machine gun laugh
and told me that if I were
ever to enlist, I was destined
to work a desk job.

previously published in Reciting From Memory by Underground Voices.

93rd Weekly Poetry Contest