Submitted by: Leonard Raines

Category: Poetry

Heavy doors swung open at the top of a hall sloping down a long passage with pale green walls.They opened with clatter and clamor and screams swinging wide to the shouts and the noise of the steeds.Then there at the threshold in two rows of three were the hospital gurneys of marine amputees.I stood at the bottom of that passage from Hell as they bumped for position awaiting some bell that could soothe their souls or make them well.These jockeys well-mounted on their gurneys from Hell. “Let ‘em go.” “Let ‘er rip.” “I’m ready to ride!”The jockeys yelled with fire in their eyes.Flattened upon those clean white sheets, bluish stumps for arms or legs and feet.So torn of limb by shot and mine and stitched, like Shelley’s Frankenstein. Awaiting the start they gave not a care.Grinning and laughing young men on a dare.To ride those gurneys to who knows where? These jockeys so brave and devil-may-care. For what does it matter, what difference to make when you no longer have the bones to break? When they’ve drained the richness of spirit and soul. You’re a ham in a sack on a government dole. So turn ‘em loose and let ‘em soar like thoroughbreds past in their days before. And so it went, the bell was rung and from the far-off threshold flung the gurneys of these native sons down the hallway of oblivion. After the start the boys tried to steer. With a shift of a torso they managed a veer. And I for one will never forget how they tried to keep their balance yet, the aluminum mounts were picking up speed as they rolled down the slope headed for me.Then the wheels intertwined with a grinding clash.The gurneys went over and the torsos crashed down to the floor with a horrible smash with drip lines ripped and faces dashed.Up from the carnage there uttered a groan from some boy’s lips so far from home.Drifting along in the pungent air of antiseptic hope and care.It caught me almost unaware that I, a ghost, was in despair.Then from the threshold came the cry, “Let ‘em loose,” and “Semper Fi!”So down the hallway flew three more. Gurneys and the hams they bore.And although destined for the floor they charged as once they did in war.Below on the track the torsos writhed as they struggled there to move aside.A fallen racer cannot lie for if he does there he must die. So with mighty efforts they did crawl for the safety of the pale green wall.Upon them fast their comrades came shouting out to them by name,“If I nail your ass, I’m not to blame! “Make a whole or take the pain!” Macabre laughter split the hall when the leader’s gurney hit the wall. Over his mount with his stumps in the air he fell to the heap of his brothers there.Then upon the floor of fluids and stains he shouted, “Let me ride again!” Struggling in his awful place a smile so strange upon his face as by him flew the gurney race all the while increasing pace.Down below I mutely stood with eyes of glass and heart of wood.With legs and feet and hands and arms to all but few I looked unharmed. I questioned as

About the author:

Leonard Raines