Poem: I Had A Friend, A Sniper

photo: U.S. Marine Corps (public domain)

I Had A Friend
by Ron Olsen

I had a friend
A sniper
Not a movie
A sniper
Who came back unable to live with us

When we went shooting
He never missed

He was in the jungle
Tied to a tree
Until he nearly died from
Some vile amoebic rot
Put him in a hospital in Japan

He came back
Married a woman
Kept a big spider
And a snake
Kept them in aquariums on shelves
With a giant hookah in the middle of the room

He’d let the spider out
Let it crawl around
And the snake
Inside your shirt
If you weren’t careful
He still needed some hazard
Some threat
Some kind of edge

We smoked
And then his young wife
Would coax him into bed
Where he slept with a 45
And the dreams
Of what had passed

Still uncomfortable without his back to the wall
He’d seen too much
I guess
Felt too much
Done too much
The marriage did not last
So he left to build sailboats

He was my friend
But I let him go
Threw him away like so much trash
I was unsure
Afraid of what he might do
You can’t be too careful
Around people who play with spiders

I had a friend
He was a sniper
He came back from the war
And died young
I could have done more
But maybe not
I’m sorry

I no longer knew who you were

Or a story
To make money
For some Hollywood producer
To glorify war
And reassure ourselves of who we are
How strong we are
How deadly we are
How right we are
How decent we are
That killing can be justified

I had a friend
He was a sniper
Now he’s dead
Died young from jungle rot
There’s no movie about his life
Just reality

I’m so damn sorry

© Ron Olsen – All rights reserved