It’s so loud I forget who I am. I can’t feel anything; I can’t hear anything. I try to open my eyes. I cannot see anything; my body is in shock.
Something loud has happened, something abrupt. My life will never be the same. I know that instantly. What has happened? Where am I? Why am I here? What the fuck is happening?
You will not meet Death today. Not today, not tomorrow. You may go through loss. You will see horrors…but you will not experience Death….
I gather myself. I’m standing two meters away from the blast site. I look around the area. I feel the sun, I smell the air, I see my boys…
Not today, Motherfucker
“Not Today” was the very first poem I wrote in early 2014. I never knew this would light the fire to my burning passion that is writing poetry.
After being out of the Corps for a couple years the weight of solitude, depression, and the anxiety of combat started to catch up with me. I had no support system to rely on, all my friends from the Corps were spread out across the U.S. and no one back home could truly comprehend the mental relevance and connection combat instills among those who go through it together. So I decided to write how war impacted me – not some singular mission about anything crazy but about the daily ritual of leaving the wire and actually being fully engulfed in direct combat.
I had a mission now, out of the Corps.
I took a pen and wrote a poem about the mental attitude I had while walking around Sangin Valley. More importantly I wrote how it felt when I first stepped on a low-order IED first hand. So many OEF/OIF guys have been affected by IEDs it only made sense that the first words that would come from my mind was a poem about the IED, not the prospect of the IED actually killing me, but more a internal warning that ‘today wasn’t my day.’ At the time this was a very tough subject for me to confront. There are some things I’ve yet to write about and address in my poetry books, but I’m getting there. The fact still remains that I used poetry to conquer feelings I buried for a few years. Until this point I never took poetry seriously (because what Marine would actually write poetry seriously and try to make a career out of it?). Only a few years later did the thought truly cross my mind.
In 2017 I had written enough poems and was mulling over the idea of writing my very own book. So I started to pass around my poetry to friends and family seeking critical feedback. After a couple months I started to receive the same feedback from everyone: “this needs to be published.” So I took their advice and ran with it. I wrote over 150 poems and several short stories over a 45-day period. In July 2017 I committed to self-publishing my work under the title “Outside The Wire: a U.S. Marine’s Collection Of Combat Poems and Short Stories.”I released my first book on November 10th2017, and for me the journey started.
Please see below for a link to Justin’s work.