Monthly Archives: November 2019

LEGACY

 

 

Without honor,
without truth,

without charity
or compassion,

all is consumptive
dumbshow.

We have grown fat
on the numbers since

we lost our taste
for words that matter.

Like waiting for a rain
to settle dust

and bring verdancy,
the storms will come

to cleanse this earth
and thunder verily.

 

Veterans Day

 

the-vietnam-veterans-memorial-washington-dc-ilker-goksen

courtesy Claire Palmer Photography

The Wall

 

breaking chains by Rod McQueary
               for Bill Jones, and the others.

I run, hide, backtrack, but—
They know all my tricks.
They find me, eventually,
and beat me, and haul me
to some clearing
in the jungle.
There are a dozen or so, about a squad.
With broken teeth, and battered eyes,
I can hardly tell
what they tied me to,
but I know what’s next.
It’s a dream Sauvagio said he found…
One night, while drunk, he told me—
What they did to the two GIs
one white, one black, they caught
(too bad, I think, to tell here).
Sauvagio found ‘em.
They cut ‘em down,
cut the stitches in their lips,
put back the body parts traded,
started trying to forget.
Sauvagio—
mentioned it
                Once.

This dream, they chuckle,
take their time, joke with each other,
show me the knife, and laugh
this dream. I mean to show ‘em
I’m no goddamn girl,
I’m no goddamn kid anymore
for the Corps, for my Country,
for my family.
I’m 2612933
and I pray
God, ogod, ogod
let me die now.
  Jesus, it hurts
                don’t let ‘em see.
Please,
                don’t let ‘em see
                        I’m weeping.

Covered with sweat, panting
shaking with fear, and fatigue
I wake again, exhausted.

Last night, April 25, 1991
they came again.
It’s not good jungle.
It’s not very hot, but—
it’s the same squad.
I know them all.

I am astounded to see I’m holding
a 60. I don’t want a 60, it’s heavy,
it’s     slow,
no extra barrel,
no glove,
the link belt is too short for this work.
I get a 16      50 shot banana.
I like a 16,
they don’t kick, just sort of flinch,
spit    fire    fling copper,
jitter left from the ejector throwing cases right.
The tall one is close, smiling,
shows me his knife again.
I pop him, tentative-like to see what he’ll do.
One neat little 5.56 hole between his eyebrows.
His hat flies off,
his skull blows up,
(Who you gonna crucify now, asshole?).
He falls down dead.
I shoot them all.
Last one runs
I’m calm now, doing business,
shooting good now.
I let him run a ways, then shoot him
in the butt to knock him down
just because I can, and
‘cause I got a few things to tell this bastard.

For Con, whose dreams are green
and stink
and are so evil
his mind won’t record them.
I going to tell this bastard
for Bill, for Joe, and the others
who NEED so bad to let it go, and can’t,
for our families, who tryandtryandtry
to understand, and can’t.
I’m going to tell this bastard
for poor Artie and the second 58
who folded
early
whose names are on no Black Wall List
…anywhere.
I’m going to tell this bastard
for all the wives and parents, who sent
men
and got animals back
and for them who will neverNeverNEVER
see justice in this world.
I’m going to tell this bastard,
M-16 barrel jammed up his goddamn
nose,
I’m going to tell this bastard
…Joke’s over.

© 1993 Rod McQueary
BLOOD TRAILS
Dry Crik Press

 

 
FIVE DAYS HOME by Bill Jones

My father and I
Sit in the shade
Of a chinaberry tree
Talk softly of the last good war.
A time of ration cards
And Gold Star Mothers.
“A uniform meant free drinks
And a lot more,”
My father says.
“But they kept me training pilots
Stateside…
And wouldn’t let me go.”

In the lower pasture
A phantom chopper whines
Rotors thrash hot wind
As it wobbles upward
With another half-dead cargo.
I blink the image away

“I won’t ask if you killed anyone.”
My father says,
“Because I don’t want to know.”
Just as well, I think angrily,
My personal count is a little hazy.

Like the pregnant woman at Gio Linh
(She never should have run)
Zapped by a battery of howitzers
Raising puzzling questions.
How do I mark her?
One and a half? Two?
“Drop 100 meters,” I whisper.
“Fire for effect.”
“Roger that,” the RTO replies.

Arm in arm
My father and I
Walk awkwardly toward supper
And the 6 O’clock news.

The chopper drones
Tilts plexiglass nose
To a hospital ship.
The woman at Gio Linh
Seeing her chance
Dashes like a sprinter
Legs pumping furiously
For a stand of scrub oaks
Behind the barn.
“It’s a shame,” my father says
Climbing the back steps,
“You didn’t get to serve
In a real
War.”

© 1993 Bill Jones
BLOOD TRAILS
Dry Crik Press

 

 

lander evening by Rod McQueary

from Gloria

     Bill used to mention
     Vietnam sometimes—
     Snippets of story
     I heard but never
     felt.
     He might have been describing Mars or
     Disneyland
     It was an untouchable
     Part of his past.

     Last October
     Our pastor told the Bishop
     About Bill’s poetry.
     While he was here, he
     dropped by.
     Bill did his funny ones
     Two or three
     And mentioned in passing
     He had written some
     Serious Poems
          About his war.

     The Bishop asked to hear one, so
     Bill went away and came
     Back with
     “Body Burning Detail”,
     Halfway through it
     He broke down.

     I just remember him
     Sitting there
     Shaking,
     His agony
     His anguish
     Pouring down his face
     And suddenly
          For me
     It was real.
     I could feel
          with my heart
          and soul
     What he could never
     Describe.
     I think
     I began to
     Understand.

from the Bishop

     I have a natural connection
     With Bill
     My Great-Aunt was born
     near the ranch where
     He works.
     I like cowboys
     Love Poetry,
     enjoyed his story
     about coming to Lander
     to Recover.
     He recited some funny poems,
     We laughed and laughed.
     It’s all great.

     Then Bill said
     There is something I’ve never
     Read before. I wonder
     if it would be all right.
     He took it out
     began to read.
     It became quiet
     By the time he had to stop
     We all were weeping.
     When it was over
     We sat and talked
          and prayed.

     I have used Bill’s poem
     Several times
     Since then,

     and I carry it with me.

from Bill

     I almost couldn’t get through
     “Body Burning Detail.”
     I tried
     But I couldn’t
     Speak.
     The Bishop said
     I’m so sorry
          so sorry,
     You don’t have to
     finish it
          and I said
     Yes I do
     Yes
          I do

© 1993 Rod McQueary
BLOOD TRAILS
Dry Crik Press

 

 

THE BODY BURNING DETAIL by Bill Jones

Three soldiers from the North
Burned for reasons
Of sanitation.
Arms shrunk to seal flippers
Charred buttocks thrust skyward
They burned for five days.
It was hard to swallow
Difficult to eat
With the sweet smoke of seared
Flesh, like fog,
Everywhere.

Twenty-five years later
They burn still.
Across seas of time
The faint unwelcome odor
Rises in odd places.
With a load of leaves
At the city dump
A floating wisp of smoke
From the burning soldiers
Mingles with the stench
Of household garbage.

Once, while watching young boys
Kick a soccer ball,
The Death Smell filled my lungs.
As I ran, choking
Panic unfolded
Fluttering wings
Of fear and remorse.
A narrow escape.

A letter, snatched from the flames
The day we burned them
Is hidden away
In a shoebox
With gag birthday cards,
Buttons, string, rubber bands.
A letter from home?
The Oriental words,
Delicately formed,
Are still a mystery.

© 1993 Bill Jones
BLOOD TRAILS
Dry Crik Press

 

Blood Trails

 

DEATH OF AN OAK

 

 

Casualty of drought and time,
no shaded bed in the tangle of dead limbs,
no burnished fruit to harvest—
but its temporary grace in death
teeters beneath the heavens.

What histories yet reside,
what sights saved within its centuries of rings,
of native talk recorded lest
forgotten of wilder beasts and men
teetering beneath the heavens?

I see myself reflected
kindly, a lifetime rooted in the same place
that I’m thankfully becoming
in a harvest of verses penned
that teeters beneath the heavens.

 

LIKE ALWAYS

 

 

Little passion in the dry,
hard hills and dust trails—
little fire in the leaves
of sycamores and willows
preparing to undress.

                    No foreplay sure,
                    no long-range rain,
                    we feed more hay

                    and wait with cows
                    growing thinner
                    in the cold,
                    sucked down
                    by growing babies.

We taste the air and search for sign:
manes and tails and moon dog rings—
our annual drama of hackneyed details
we bury our hearts and heads within

instead of the direction of a nation
without honor or integrity—

                    in God we Trust.

 

NOVEMBER DUST

 

 

For days, nothing to say,
as we wait for rain, like always
in the dust we stir,
both wild and tame.

Cow trails deep and soft,
Chinese scrolls of pad and hoof
pressed into silent verse
moving freely in the dark.

Coyote, bobcat, rattlesnake,
bear, deer and mountain lion
leave their poetry at night
to be erased each day.