In the Bunker

From outside you would hardly see it, this bunker
built by US troops during the Korean War on the DMZ.
It is deep in the ground, a gray concrete structure
that blends with the earth almost as if it were
some sort of naturally occurring stone structure.
Its perfect square shape, however, belies it as manmade.
The two doorways in, on opposite sides, are narrow.
If you had to run either in through them or out,
I’d imagine that most men would need to turn sideways.
The stairways are equally narrow, steep, each step perilously shallow.
No two people could fit side by side going up or down.
The rooms, as you might guess, are claustrophobically small,
and I can only imagine staying down here if you were under attack,
the bullets and bombs bursting all around above you.
Once inside, you might not hear the noise of battle raging,
but you could feel as though that didn’t matter anymore,
that you are dead and buried in the tomb that will preserve you
for the centuries that will drag on long after your death for no reason.

My dad comes from a big family, but besides him, only one uncle
served in the military, my dad in WW II, that uncle in the Korean War.
In the madness of that battle to control Korea, my uncle, a Korean,
might have been torn by the idea of fighting against relatives from the north.

Whenever I think of him, in addition to his wife and children,
I remember his wonderfully deep resonant voice,
how the acoustics in this place might have enhanced that sound,
and my dad always saying that my uncle was the handsomest of all the brothers.

Now I’ll have another memory of him, by association.
I’ll always see of the two of us deep beneath the fray up above,
wondering about what might be and what could have been,
a unified Korea and the possibility of never living to see it.

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