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     Poetry in War

Poetry by Members of the 1/50th Infantry Association and their families
 
La Belle Dame sans Merci

La Belle Dame sans Merci
(Keats)

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1. La Belle Dame sans Merci
2. Drive-on Rag
3. Muggy Afternoon
4. Skytroopers in the Sky
5. Memory of a Fallen Ranger
6. Sticks and Stones
7. Combat Leader
8. M.I.A.
9. A Moment
10. A Hero with no Name
11. Fifteen Men
12. Fiftieth Infantry Man
13. Unexpected!
14. Follow Me!
15. Pain!
16. Patrol!
17. Comrades!
18. Bali!
19. Parade.
20. Arlington.
21. Seasoned Combat Boots.
22. A Prayer to Start the Day
23. Soldier

Click Here to submit your peotic contribution.

A Prayer to Start the Day.
© Martha Sarlin, 2003. All rights reserved.


Inspire me, Lord, throughout the day
    to seek Thy help along the way;
        before I act, before I speak,
            teach me, Lord, Thy Word to seek.

Inspire me, Lord, to take good care
    of Thy creation everywhere:
        family, home, pets, garden, wealth, -
            my mind, my body and my health.

Inspire me, Lord, to use my mind
    to do my best at tasks I find;
        to be creative: wise, not smart;
            Thy words to guide me from the heart.

Inspire me, Lord, to use my heart
    to live a life that’s set apart;
        in everything be led by love;
            in serving man, serve God above.

Martha Sarlin


Seasoned Combat Boots.
© Ray Sarlin, 2003. All rights reserved.


Spring:
Combat boots straight from the box
Begin to hurt my feet
Blister toes and crack my soles
Stiff leather retains the heat.

Summer:
When they've covered many miles
They take on a bright shine
Mould themselves to my skin
Then look and feel real fine.

Autumn:
Softly caressed joints and bone
I hardly know they're worn
So well drilled they shine themselves
Yet still resist a thorn.

Winter:
Re-heeled once, can't hold a shine
No longer looking cute
Rolling ankles, twisting toes
It's time they got the boot.

Ray Sarlin


Parade.
© Michael Koplin, 1985-2003. All rights reserved.


    So many didn't make it home.
           Their innocence was ended
    fighting for the honor and
           the glory they defended.

    Who explains it to the children
           of the men who lost their lives.
    Who consoles the grief
           of the mothers and the wives.

    What of those whose legs were torn,
           who walk within their dreams.
    Who comforts those who call for help
           with silence in their screams.

    In time, when history will tell,
           and memories will fade...
    when soldiers remember deeds of past
           each has their own parade.

Michael Koplin

Arlington.
© Michael Koplin, 1985-2003. All rights reserved.


They're buried now,
those brave and valiant men
who had to die.

Although we fought to win the war
some say we didn't try.

Taps is sounded in their honor,
as wives and children cry.

The flower is lost forever,
and all I ask is why?


Michael Koplin


Bali!
© Anonymous, 2002.

You hurt us bombing Bali, but we can take the pain,
But if you think you'll beat us you can think a-bloody-gain
We battled at Gallipoli and we fought the bloody hun
Of all the arseholes we've had to face you're just another one

You won't get your hands dirty, you won't fire a gun
Whenever danger threatens you just pack your gear and run
You brainwash innocent children to do your evil deeds
Careful not to let them know just where it really leads

You get them to believe all your bigotry and lying
Until they cannot see that there's no glory in their dying
Now we'd like to pose a question, answer if you can
Where does your holy book tell you to kill your fellow man?

Now listen hard and listen well, we're giving you the word
You're never gonna beat us you spineless bloody turd
You'd never face us personally you haven't got the guts
You know that if you ever did we'd have your bloody nuts

Our spirit is unbroken, and our heads are still unbowed
We sure as hell aren't scared of you and your gutless crowd
So get your act together -- you'll never win because
What you're really up against is the spirit that is OZ

Anonymous (provided to Ray Sarlin
by an Australian Vietnam Veteran)


Patrol!
© Dennis Driscoll, 2002. All rights reserved.

Another patrol, short or long
It felt the same.
The thoughts of war and pain.

That feeling in our stomach.
Hollow and frail,
time to follow another trail.

Gather your weapon, check the gear,
buckle up! The Chopper is here!


Please press here for the complete poem
.

Comrades!
© Dennis Driscoll, 2002. All rights reserved.

I stand at the graves
with the flags.
I think about the untold
stories beneath each tomb.

They are my comrades
and those standing near.
We share the common bond.
The horrors of war.


Please press here for the complete poem.

Pain!
© Richard Guthrie, 2002. All rights reserved.

And oh, not five minutes before,
He had dug Zippo from sweat-muddy Jungle Fatigues,
And respectfully lit the soggy last Marlboro,
His Cap'n had tugged from the crumpled pack.
Now, a booming flash, and he writhes, stunned, bloodied...
So maimed that if he survives at all,
He'll never make babies with the waiting girl of the snapshot on his helmet,
Nor read again with those blue eyes,
Her three letters from this morning's Mail Call.

At that black scar in the earth on the Mall, tears flow,
As numbly you rub your fingers yet again over the engraved names of those,
You led... you loved... and you lost.

There's pain with us each, and no store of wisdom, no thickening scar tissue,
Can make it go away.
The Great Spirit likely made us thus, so we'll think twice,
Before we put figurative or literal hand back on the proverbial hot stove.
And yet, the pain so focuses our memory,
That we celebrate better the living stored there:
The loving and the loved ones, the triumphs, joys, satisfactions,
That define our very souls,
That shape and form our essence.

And this is the same celebrating
Isn't it, that keeps us pressing ahead,
So full of hope.

Richard Guthrie



International War Veteran's Poetry Archives

September 2002

Follow Me!
© Ray Sarlin, 2002. All rights reserved.


"Here's your new A.O.," says the major,
"Your troops won't go in blind."
"Check it out,' says the colonel,
"And see what y'all can find!"
"Follow me."

"Situation, mission, execution," says the cap'n,
"The objective's over there."
"Logistics, command and signal,' says the cap'n,
"This is a tough 'un, so beware!"
"Follow me."

"We move at oh four hundred," says the el tee,
"The Old Man says it will be tough."
"Oh four hundred we move out," says the el tee,
"Get ready to do your stuff."
"Follow me."

"Keep movin'," says the sergeant,
"The enemy's just ahead."
"Smartly now," says the sergeant,
"Stop and you'll be dead."
"Follow me."

"Spread out now," says the corporal,
"Don't give 'em a good shot."
"Keep your place," says the corporal,
"Pretty soon she'll get real hot."
"Follow me."

"What the fuck," says the private,
"I got but one life to live."
"Fuck this shit," says the private,
"Them mothers'll have to give."
"Follow me."

"Follow me!" they shout together,
Firing on the run.
"Follow me!" they shout together.
The battle has begun.
"Follow me."

"Keep going," says the cap'n,
"Through fire, smoke and shell!"
"Keep going," says the cap'n,
"Into the jaws of hell!"
"Follow me."

"Keep going," says the el tee,
"Through their mines and wire!"
"Keep going," says the el tee,
"Maintain the base of fire!"
"Follow me."

"Keep movin'," says the sergeant,
"Together me and you!"
"Keep movin'," says the sergeant,
"We're gonna make it through!"
"Follow me."

"Keep movin'," says the corporal,
"Don't think about your pain."
"Keep movin'," says the corporal,
"There's one more yard to gain."
"Follow me."

"What the fuck," says the private,
"Their rounds are shootin' high."
"Keep movin'," says the private,
"It's time for them to die."
"Follow me."

"Push on now," says the fallen,
"To that bright light just ahead."
"I'm coming," says the fallen,
"There's nothing left to dread!"
"Follow me."

Ray Sarlin


Unexpected
© Richard P. Guthrie, 2002. All rights reserved.


Back then, tales abounded of the way: life in the service
Had brought this one around, made a man of that one, and,
How the other had performed incredible feats in the face of enemy fire.
No, we didn't expect a Church picnic,
The Talking Heads had warned us it wouldn't be easy.

Some did evade, but for us the citizen's role was clear.
Slinking North was not our particular American way.
So we swallowed hard, stepped up to the plate, did our duty best we could.
We expected that fighting for America would test us to new limits back then.
And nobody promised we'd all come home in one piece...and sure enough...

We expected the ordeal of it, the threatening flora, fauna and humana,
In the bleak loneliness, we found all the excitement we could stand.
We knew the heat, the mud, the stench, the sleep-deprivation all were coming.
Yet although we'd been warned, the rape of our innocence
Plunged us to depths we'd never known possible.

Sent off by a populace ambivalent, on a mission ill-defined,
We were right to be scared, to expect some measure of the terrible we got.
The real unexpected, though, was the bewildering "welcome home", when,
Just as - relieved and exhausted - we limped back for the familiar, the warmth,
And as we came up the walk, you slammed the door in our faces, America.

The same folk we thought we'd been sent off to defend, who paid our way,
Happily voted us over to that ordeal, then somehow thought it fitting
To pin on us all blame for the complexities of the problem.
We surely didn't see that part coming, and - hope you'll understand -
A few are having a hard time, just ... getting over it.

                                        Dick Guthrie


Fiftieth Infantry Man
© John Smerdon, 2002. All rights reserved.


When duty called he gave his all
he risked both life and limb
                   he was a Fiftieth Infantry man.

He rode a track and carried a ruck
he scouted and he ambushed
                   he was a Fiftieth Infantry man.

His road was hard and his load was heavy
there wasn't a task he couldn't do
                   he was a Fiftieth Infantry man.

When friends fell and when friends died
he never faltered and he never failed
                   he was a Fiftieth Infantry man.

When his time came he feared not
he lived his life as men should
                   he was a Fiftieth Infantry man.


John Smerdon


Fifteen Men
© Ray Sarlin, 2002. All rights reserved.

Organized like Rangers to forge a common bond
Seasoned, highly motivated, trained to respond
Making many a quick, bold and deadly strike
On enemy troops, weapons, and supplies alike
Just one of many irregular commando bands.
Holloway's Raiders in Nam's Central Highlands.

That evening of the twentieth of March, sixty-nine,
Fifteen Raiders stepped through razor wire and mines
Leaving LZ Action for infamous Mang Yang Pass
To lay a deadly ambush in the long, dry grass.
Training and comraderie were to save the day
For, unbeknownst to intell, a company plus of NVA
Dispatched by 5th Battalion, Regiment Nine Five B
To chop off Pump Station Number 8 at the knee
Just east on QL19 from where the Viet Minh
Annihilated Group Mobile 100's nine hundred men
An Indochina battle that as much as Dien Bien Phu
Forced once mighty France to bid Vietnam adieu.

In the early hours, the tiny patrol became aware
Of North Vietnamese regulars moving to ensnare
The understrength American force guarding PS8,
Despite heavy incoming, still oblivious of their fate.
The radio packed it in as Raiders alerted in place
Forcing 'em to blow their 'bush just to warn the base.
Heavily outnumbered, with futures looking blank
Thirty seconds of hurt poured into the enemy flank.
Many enemy soldiers fell, their shit blown away
Then the tide of battle changed; causing hell to pay.
For fifteen Holloway's Raiders, surrounded and cut off
Bullets whipped, rockets pounded, mortars coughed.
Hearing intense gunfire to the south and seeing smoke
The boys in Pump Station 8 called in arty as a cloak
Battalion heard the calls, and sent Alpha Company
Along with 69th Armor, aboard tank and APC.
Air Force fighter bombers vectored in by FAC
Decimated enemy were bloodily forced back.

Fifteen men quietly left LZ Action just the night before
Fifteen men held out against one hundred Cong or more
Fifteen men hanging on when Alpha's APCs rolled in,
Fifteen men wanted ammo in case Charlie attacked again
Fifteen men battered, half bloody, some barely still alive.
Quick medivac and surgeon's care saw every man survive.
SRAP accomplished more than their number may suggest
They had a bastard of a job, but each gave all his best.
Ably led by Rangers and comprised of special troops
Holloway's Raiders - just one of many little groups.

                                        Ray Sarlin


A Hero with no Name
© Ray Sarlin, 2002. All rights reserved.

Was there ever meaning truer
Than that one from Viet Nam,
From a young man I remember
Who lay dying in Binh Thuan.
Old eyes staring far away,
Past dead and dying friends,
Dying alone amongst a crowd,
While his body slowly mends.


Drifting far away from them,
Into a vast and dark unknown
Nothing to tell waiting parents
Or friends and love at home,
Purple shade dropped o'er his eyes
As youth slowly slipped away
Courage and duty didn't desert him
But his future died that day.

He went to Nam a young man, standing tall to play the game
A year's hard yards for Uncle Sam, came home his place to claim.

"It was like…" he started saying
Voice fraught with pain and grief,
But there were none who listened
To his tangled feelings or beliefs.
Mother cooked her apple pies
In pretense he'd never left
While dad avoided questioning
The ghosts he tried to heft.

Friends still speaking to him
Closed their ears to words he'd say
His girlfriend married another man
Twelve months too long not to stray.
Hollow silence echoed in his mind
Time to simply drift away,
Out into the dark, alone again
With no reason left to stay.

He went to Nam a young man, standing tall to play the game
A year's hard yards for Uncle Sam, but home was not the same.

Married once or twice or more
Still alone amongst the crowd
Future becoming present, then past
Hiding that he'd once been proud
Until a time the dam was breached,
Hallowed ground stained red again
Memories flooding back he cried,
"I was once a better man."

Was there ever meaning truer
Than that one from Viet Nam,
From a young man I remember
Who lay dying in Binh Thuan.
Old eyes staring far away,
Past dead and dying friends,
Dying alone amongst a crowd,
And with God his story ends.

He went to Nam a young man, standing tall to play the game
A year's hard yards for Uncle Sam, he's a hero with no name.

                                        Ray Sarlin


Drive-on Rag
© Richard P. Guthrie, 2002. All rights reserved.

Your Ruck must weigh over sixty pounds
and somewhere a strap has worked loose
letting the load rock with your stride,
pulling you off balance with each step,
making the walk twice as hard.

Then battalion calls to say you need to be another three klicks
straight up the same ridgeline you have humped for the last three hours.
Darkness approaches and you really need to get
Your soldiers set up before all light's gone.
And you don't feel right about hurrying up this narrow trail
So deep in "Indian Territory".


Time to untie, I'd say,
that greasy square of olive drab cotton
from around the neck,
wipe your brow...
and,
DRIVE ON!!!

                                        Dick Guthrie


A Moment
© Ray Sarlin, 2002. All rights reserved.

Halt --- I have a feeling
The enemy is ahead,
Take up a fighting position,
My ruck must now be shed
Filthy, wet and weary
Put all out of my mind
Sharply focus my attention
On the tasks I've been assigned.

Trembling, shirking, joking,
No longer have a place,
All my senses fully tuned,
Fear I must erase
In this instant before battle
Kneeling down in muddy sod
Not knowing fate or future
I share a moment with my God.

                                        Ray Sarlin


M.I.A.
© Ray and Marti Sarlin, 2002. All rights reserved.


They came from all across the land,
Forged bonds in blood and sweat,
Then quickly went their separate ways,
Though memories bind them yet.

Some aren’t around to reminisce,
Attrition there was high,
Tom Pipkin was the first to fall,
Cokley last in Nam to die.

Over two hundred of our brethren
Didn’t see the States again,
Others came back wounded
In spirit, head or limb.

Most made it back to fight
Humdrum battles every day,
Going through the motions
With a heart still M.I.A.

                                        Ray and Marti Sarlin


Muggy Afternoon
© Richard P. Guthrie, 2002. All rights reserved.

All it takes is a muggy afternoon
When you seem to feel before you hear, the wop-wop-wop
Of main rotors slap-flapping on damp air, and the high-pitched whine,
To launch a jumble of fast-forwarded film clips three decades old.
Sharp images of other muggy afternoons race by,
Other flights of Hueys :

The resupply bird inbound,
'Hots' for supper, ammunition, grenades, fresh water,
And maybe even mail at last,
With promised picture of the new firstborn
I pray I'll live to see.


A MEDEVAC bird
Rushing to take away our brothers,
Youngsters we'd shared a joke and a smoke with
Minutes before, and who now lie
Dazed, bloodied, maimed, stunned
At the edge of the clearing
We frantically cut for a Pickup Zone.


A flight of "Six, Two and Two"
Hauling on Combat Assault yet again, the Bravo Braves.
Jaws clenched, knuckles white,
Their lips recite prayers unheard above the turbine scream,
While eyes bulging with fear dart and comb every inch
Of the bald pockmarked knob that dances and shudders in the distance
Under artillery "Prep Fires" and aerial rockets.
If only fires and collective will could assure a 'cold' Landing Zone.

On this muggy afternoon,
My mind takes me again among those brave, sweaty, sleep-deprived heroes.
Fighting terror, boredom, relentless fear, unseen foe, hidden mines.
They slogged on, defending:

            The "whole fuckin' free world against Godless Communism...
            Ain't that what the man said we was here for, Jim?"


On an adventure they had not asked for -- one uglier by far
Than any a clueless Walter Cronkite ever could describe --
Our soldiers gave of themselves day in and day out,
With valor and dignity their countrymen still won't acknowledge.

So this muggy Monterey afternoon, I sing again their praises.
Then return to my current mission,
First giving thanks to my Maker for the fact that,
The only weapon I heft at 'high-port' today
Is a Brush, Anti-cobweb, M-1,
With ten-foot telescoping handle.

Dick Guthrie


Skytroopers in the Sky
© Rigo Ordaz, 2012. All rights reserved.


In a faraway land
In a long forgotten war
58,000 souls or more
From the ground they do cry
“Why did I die, Why did I die?

Was it just to make my mom cry
Wife and kids for their father sigh
I know for sure I will never return
For over there my soul has died
And in a rice paddy my buddies lye.

Oh they told me to “Play the Game”
The Game of war and destruction
My heavy Mech machinegun train
To kill the enemy everywhere
The more I killed , the more I died
It was I that was dying right there
Oh why did I die? Why did I die?

As I looked up a whirlwind stunned my heart
A herd of Choppers spurting flaming hot
thundering by me gave me quite a start
As thy went by I could hear their mournful cry
Why did I die, why did I die?

Like hellish horses in the sky
A hundred gunships they did ride
I strained my eyes ,in the twilight I could see
Twas my dead buddies singing back to me
Why did I die? Why did I die?

There is no coming home for me
My soul is out there in the field
On a dark monsoon sky
I ask you and everybody else
Before I say Goodby
“Why did I die?”
“Why did I die?

Rigo Ordaz


Memory of a Fallen Ranger
© Ray Sarlin, 2002. All rights reserved.

I'd like to think I knew him,
            Since in my arms he died...
Shredded by tiny fragments,
            God knows the medics tried.

That he lived so long at all
            Once the explosives blew...
Testifies to God knows what,
            I wish that I knew too.

Thirty-two years later on
            I can't recall his name...
Though I swore to not forget
            My God, I feel such shame.

But if his name has vanished,
            And God knows that is real...
His heroism hasn't dimmed,
            His mem'ry stirs me still.

But my real disgrace I fear
            Not his forgotten name,
But other's expectations
            I tried but couldn't claim.
He'd written wife and children
            Cheap Charlie had his pic
To draw a velvet painting
            And make them less heartsick.

Reply to my condolence
            Came as this simple plea
If I didn't mind too much
            Send his picture cross the sea.

I wrote back that I would try...
            And try we did in vain....
Days and weeks and months passed by
            Time came to board my plane.

If I should recall his name
            Though thirty years have passed.
May his actions give me strength
            To write his kin at last.

I'd like to think I knew him,
            Since in my arms he died...
Shredded by tiny fragments,
            God, help my pain subside.

Ray Sarlin


Sticks and Stones...
© Richard P. Guthrie, 2002. All rights reserved.

You called, America, we came
From hometowns all across this Great Nation.
Reluctant, but too imbued we were with Dad's sense of duty to country
To join those less inclined,
          Hunkered up north to wait it all out.


The year of service to country left us numb, stripped, vulnerable.
Each desperate to set free the private demons raging inside,
A stampede too frightful for words even to paint, much less exorcise.


We needed most of all to mourn, to grieve:
          Lost youth...
                    Lost innocence...
                              Dashed ideals...
And to lament our brethren
          Stilled, or maimed...
                    By those purported
                              Cunning enemies of the Democratic way.
And we'd yet to sing the bravery of your heroes, America.


And it was the slamming door
Of the special welcome
From the very countrymen we'd been sent off to defend,
          Left us scarred more deeply yet
Than any foreigner's steel and powder ever could.


And it's the stillbirth of that grieving, to this day,
Impels our more 'welcome-shocked' wounded,
          To drift aimlessly,
                    Under bridges, in the alleys,
                              The parking lot of your neighborhood
                                        Strip mall.
As yet we grope for the paddock gate's key,
          Still powerless to loose the
                    24/7 ever-raging...
                              Demons.

                                        Dick Guthrie


Combat Leader
© Ray Sarlin, 2002. All rights reserved.

You thought that I asked without caring to know the answer...
          That I wasn't interested.


You thought that I only pretended to pay attention to you
          When I asked about your family.


You thought that I simply wanted to impress the Old Man
          When I reprimanded you.


You thought that I was just trying to get you to like me
          When I laughed at your jokes.


You thought that I was looking for an edge over you
          When I asked your opinion.


You thought that I merely wanted something from you
          When I slapped your back.


You thought that I didn't respect you or your ability
          When I pushed you to shape up.


You thought that I didn't trust you or appreciate you
          When I checked your ammo.


You thought that I personally had it in for you
          When my orders put you at risk.


You thought that I was looking out for myself in the ambush
          When I pushed you down.


You thought that I was crying tears of relief that it wasn't me
          When I tried to stop your bleeding.


You would've thought that I was going through the motions
          When I wrote your letter.


I wish that you were still around so that I could tell you...
          That you were wrong.

Ray Sarlin


Poetry for Engineers
A Search for the Rules of Poetry
© Ray Sarlin, 2002. All rights reserved.

Rules are there for me to find, wafting close on clouds of time
     Wars spring poets from the grime, spinning sonnets spewing rhyme
          Shouldn't my war have its ration, despite our mocking generation.

Why indeed I scream and shout, as America's loyalties twist about
     First we're good in freedom's fight, then we're bad as might makes right
          Now we're good again they say, it's our war was rotten every way.

But it's our war we went to fight, butts on the line both day and night
     Why ever cannot people see, it's that bad war that molded me
          Made me who I am today, some good some bad some either way.

So here I search for rules of rhyme to make some sense of that bad time
     To bridge the gap from then to now and span the years I've lost somehow
          Why hold a bridge and rules so dear, alas, I'm far less poet than engineer.

Ray Sarlin


Soldier

GEORGE L. SKYPECK, Reg ® US Trademark, Copyright © 1978, All Rights Reserved.


I was that which others did not want to be.
I went where others feared to go,
And did what others feared to do.

I asked nothing from those who gave nothing,
And reluctantly accepted the thought of
Eternal loneliness...should I fail.

I have seen the face of terror;
Felt the stinging cold of Fear;
And enjoyed the sweet taste of a moments love.

I have cried, pained, and hoped...but most of all,
I have lived times others would say are best forgotten.
At least someday I will be able to say that I was proud of

What I was...

A SOLDIER

George L. Skypeck


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