Charms

by Joseph S. Pete

All soldiers believe Charms in their MREs are foul luck, bad juju,
more than just a dark talisman, a virtual death sentence.
Patrols have been called off if some dirtbag private
straight out of basic
tested fate by peeling open a pack 
of the generic Jolly Ranchers knockoffs that bring nothing but doom.

Everyone on the FOB heard stories about how Charms
were a malediction that summoned malefactors who
felled soldiers with sniper fire, mortar blasts and IED ambushes.
Marines supposedly even once threw Charms at the enemy in a firefight
to even skewed, candy-altered odds.

That’s why you never ingest Charms.
That’s why you cast them away theatrically,
make a real show of it.
That’s why you have to observe the whole superstition.

We all choke down MREs.
That’s a universal experience.
Some have Charms; some don’t.
It’s all chance.
It’s purely random, who’s charmed or cursed by fate.

Likewise, it makes no sense who randomly
gets killed, maimed, blown up, torn apart,
out there, outside the wire.

There’s no rhyme or reason 
behind which soldiers go down,
who gets battlefield crosses with helmets, rifles, boots and dog tags,
who succumbs to PTSD, traumatic brain injury, moral injury, any war wound.

Maybe some stale, rotten hard candy 
could make sense of it all.
Maybe Charms are just imbued a significance they never earned
in a senseless chaos devoid of any meaning,
in an abysmal void that invites lore.

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