Tony Barnstone
  • Tony Barnstone

They didn’t shoot at us. A silent scene

until we clogged the beach, and then — all hell,

potato masher hand grenades, machine

gun fire, artillery. I swear each shell

passed close enough you could reach up and catch

it like a ball. I crawled across black sand,

and used each corpse for cover. Don’t attach

yourself, is what I learned. Push it down and

crawl in a hole. Go numb, and you’ll survive,

maybe, as I survived. I didn’t hate

the man who charged me with his bayonet.

I crouched and shot him dead so I could live.

But the photo in his helmet cut my heart.

A child, smiling at me. And then I wept.

(U.S. Marine, Iwo Jima, 1945)


Tony Barnstone is the Albert Upton Professor of English Language and Literature at Whittier College and is the author of several collections of poetry as well as being a distinguished translator of Chinese poetry and an editor of literary textbooks. He has been awarded the grand prize of the Strokestown International Poetry Festival and is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council. “Beach Landing, Iwo Jima” is from his collection
Tongue of War: From Pearl Harbor to Nagasaki, published by BkMk Press, and is reprinted by permission.

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