The L-T’s words -and thoughts of all – were drown’d In Allison T- Fifty-Sixes’ moans. Bad memories of Cam Ranh stay’d aground While high above the bitter Rolling Stones – A shot away from calling in their loans – Cried “Gimme Shelter!”! Tho’ our hapless Kid, All rape and murder grinding in his bones Sought solace, even of himself to rid, Two L-Ts haunted him, no matter what he did.
Ere long he felt that Herk was banking slow, His altitude, velocity subside: He felt not quite himself; he dar’d not show Himself too self-compos’d, and so he sigh’d. Somehow the Flashback Kings had let him slide, So that our Knight, possess’d by proper frame Of mind, grabbing his gear, he hurried, sky’d Quick down the loading ramp. That smell? Same-same! Fate’s fickle finger once again controll’d his game.
But suddenly, instead of just deboard, He stumbl’d, fell; but didn’t miss a beat. He rais’d his arms, and mocking,”Thank you, Lord!” He pope-like kiss’d the tarmac. On his feet Again, he marvel’d that no one would greet With open arms his antics. Not a few Ignor’d him. So, he got a bite to eat, Digested, bor’d, until his ride was due; Welcome to DaNang, Kid; and welcome to Book Two.
xxii. A diff’rent Dude departed Cam Ranh Bay Our Boy boarded his plane and raised his fist No “There and Then” but “Be Here Now” he’d say. So, what had he become? Well, here’s the gist: His University? He boo’d and hiss’d! Suviving This Man’s Army? “Just exist … “ And whiny, wily women? “Had my fill”; Out Berk’ley way? Times Square? “Not even miss’d”; Half mad? Dried out? “No drink, no smoke, no pill!” “My Next Adventure!” was his cause – for good or ill.
xxiii. All patriotic pretenses aside, With Myra Breckenridge and old Mae West, The Kid regress’d – less Jekyll but more Hyde, Entomb’d again, in Herk once more harness’d. Sho’nuff! the souls about him seem’d distress’d; What does he say? “Sure hope this plane don’t crash!”, Now this joke put an L-T to the test. “At ease, Private! This ain’t a scene from M*A*S*H!” Began his diatribe – his tongue used for a lash:
xxiv. “You think this stinking War’s all fun and games? You haven’t heard? Well, last night in Long Binh; Some spaced Enlisted nut, he goes and blames His officers for the sad shape he’s in? This idiot, he goes and pulls the pin On a grenade, not knowing who he sought. Two sleeping, young L-Ts, short, for the win: He fragg’d ’em! Hoping to go home, both bought The farm. They’re gone. They’re dead. We’re pretty sure he’s caught.”
xix. The Kid had not indulg’d, not on a bet, Yet saw an opportunity arise – When his first class went on a break – to let Remaining inhibitions turn to lies. His daddy’s closet PLAYBOYS made him wise, And tho’ they had unleash’d his teenage Beast – In Vietnam what took him by surprise? The paperback he found. To say the least To read it was to retch: a slimy maggot feast.
xx. The paperback he held was not at all What it appear’d. It should have burned his Hand, Or blown up in ten thousand pieces small. It should have cost the Kid a million grand To lap up poison in a foreign land. Quite coverless, that dogear’d book belied Seductive strength, and pow’r to beat the band. Sobriety return’d, how hard he tried To study – but, alas! By smut his brain got fried!
But came the day Day our Kid would graduate From MP School – but hardly a Porn freak. That wicked Lord could not infatuate, Could not control him, making him his Geek, What sav’d him was the solace he would seek In penning letters to his family Against his better judgment. Oft would leak An eye or two on PX station’ry, As he declar’d his hopes, and phony surety.
xvi. Soon comes the hour. The brightest twinkl’d stars Above the sky wink out. The Earth goes flat , And all the senseless sleep behind bare bars Of Innocence. There, slinking like a rat; One cursing, swearing, eyes encas’d in fat Arrives announc’d and howls his ancient call. And millions on whose backs he once had sat; Who bow’d at his commands subliminal, Free-willing now hail him: “Lord Porn, El Criminal!”
xvii. “Now hearken unto me, O mankind’s thieves! In multi-media’s fair Ornaments Sweet imag’ry avoids the stomach heaves; So, pave the Road to Hell with good Intents: Just titillate their minds with blandishments ‘Til deep in their libidos you have crept, And spoil’d their social mores’ inhabitants, Blaspheming holy beds they should have kept; ‘Til inhibitions all to flaming lusts are swept!”
xviii. “They read? You write. They look? Put on a show, Don’t overestimate the Public Taste; Fight Sodom and Gomorrah toe to toe; Take on Mick Jagger’s “lay their souls to waste”; Remember Pompeii’s walls by ash effaced; Consider Philip Roth’s Obscenity; Mock Lenny Bruce, who jived and died in haste; Spare no expense to prove your loyalty; May all your works bear out Total Depravity!”
So now our Hero turns another page. The MP higher-ups to school him, sent To Cam Ranh Bay, hung over, with some sage Advice: “We checked your file, we know you’re meant For bigger, better things; so, don’t relent; Don’t be a Slacker’s all we have to say. Young man like you? That smile, all Pepsodent? Just sit in class; just show up every day.” The Kid had other plans. They weren’t “All Work, No Play.”
A short truck ride along that deep port shore, Whereon he glimpsed a Glorious Freedom Bird Out on the tarmac! Listen! men who wore Tan khakis, in those buses must have heard The Master of the Air just say The Word. Heedless of dread, their fears seemed fled aside, And some struck up the band: that old absurd Song of The Trashmen – Surfin’ – their last ride. The Kid was not impress’d. He just wanted to hide.
The day now spent, he bunk’d down for the Night; Forgot to ask someone his soul to keep. His weary ears had just popp’d from the flight, His mind made up to neither laugh nor weep: The Fifth Dimension ston’d his soul to sleep, Their “Greatest Hits” belied his coming plight. More tunes would through the instant darkness creep Until the Dawn. His bedsheet pull’d up tight Over his face and head, he must’ve look’d a sight!
He, strapp’d aboard the Herk to Cam Ranh Bay, With sober trepidation glanc’d about. The ship roar’d slowly down that long runway, And turbo-props demanded that he shout Above the din and with the crew hash out The aircraft’s safety features. And, what’s more, The lack of windows left him with no doubt – The Kid had not been flying blind before. His Pucker Factor rose up with that loading door!
xi Quite near at hand, while gaining altitude A strange, new sound answer’d our Gentle Soul From speakers jury-rigg’d. Their amplitude Increased. An airman aft explain’d their role: “Y’all heard of Yaw and Pitch? It is our goal That, in the clouds an’ up until we land The pilots and Loadmaster rock your soul. Each gets a turn to play his favorite band. Today? ‘Jewels of Thought’ from Pharaoh Sanders’ Land!”
His tunes at full volume, at full air speed, Herk hugg’d the coast of blue South China Sea Back in a netted seat: “Man! who needs weed? These Flyboys got it goin’on! And we Got good assurances that – probably – Cold sweat, the Shakes, and other signs of Fear Will disappear, and we will live to see The Earth again! and have a nice, cold beer!” Lo! Sure enough! Anon, Kid felt the landing gear.
vii. Libation’s Lord bid once more to be served. The Kid had time and cash for alcohol, And guess’d Huge and his friends deserved A round or two from Grundy: one last call. “Improve the Body Chemistry of all!” He cried, “My plane is late. Gimme no grief, My bowels sing to me from yonder stall. Drink up and party on, and I’ll be brief; I’d better have my clothes, or thief will catch a thief!”
viii. Not much is known of how to Tan Son Nhut Our Hero got, or how he caught his plane; But someone swapp’d his sorry birthday suit For olive drab; they made him whole again; With pity calm’d him – tho’ he felt no pain – And stow’d him and his gear in Hercules. That mighty C-130, tho’, had lain For hours in repairs. Crew Chief “Cool Breeze” Told what his men had done to cure the craft’s disease.
ix. “And just so’s not to leave y’all in the lurch, We fixed her front wheel steering, as a guard Against that takeoff shimmy. Had to search For her a good control valve. It waz hard: We scroung’d and hunted thru’ ye olde parts yard; We found a perfect fit; we’re diligent With humble service, y’all are so prepar’d! Remember Chappie James’ Commandyment: The Air Force ‘never quit’. AIM HIGH is our Intent!”
iv. “Now this Winchester Twelve send you to Heav’n!” Forthwith the Huge presented his shotgun. “That’s Ithaca, a Model Thirty Sev’n!” (The Kid), “Savage? Or else a Remington?” “That lug for bayonet? That’s World War One,” The Huge replied, “and dig the the sling. This thing? Trench Gun Twelve Hundred, O my son; They thought to rob my Lady of her sting, So all I got is shot for birdies on the wing.”
v. “Now unnastand – I got shot – more than buck’. We gonna shoot Our Lady with a load. Just happens I got pocketed – what luck! – By MPs confiscated on the road A little Chunky – Opium – I sow’d This little pipe; light up; take a big drag : Exhale smoke up her barrel, cool’d and slow’d … “ “Don’t wrap it, Baggie man, it’s in the bag!” Each took a heavy hit: it hit ’em like a frag.
vi. At day, nigh weary of the irksome night, From their unlikely perch they both climb’d down, While far above a secret “Out’a sight!” Whisp’r’d Lord Opium: “Let’s blow this town And seek out other Heads of great reknown; Obliviate their minds, get in their Face.” Our boys shook hands and heard “Tears of a Clown”. While Huge return’d to his own shady place The Kid made formation. Let’s call it “Common Grace.”
In-country trained in Cam Ranh Bay, Our Kid proved ill-prepared To deal with a new enemy; Behold how well he fared!
i. They say that Fortune favors but the Bold That Providence to righteous men is kind; That Beauty’s but a wretched tale that’s told By Envy’s freaks; that Love has eyes but blind. Our Hero stood up tall, though in a bind, And breathed Allegiance and fast Fealty To Huge and Tower One, only to find At ladder’s top that knives of Verity Filleted old friends all night. Wasn’t it a pity?
L O N G. B I N H. J A I L.
ii. They watch’d intently from their sandbagg’d keep A pall of darkness fall upon that jail, They’d just as well held fortified Helm’s Deep, Altho’ sometimes a mournful/guileful wail Belied the fact. Therein, beyond the pale, Accus’d of AWOL, murder, rape or theft Thanks to UCMJ no hope of bail Those captive cats napp’d, pac’d – until, bereft, Transferr’d to Leavenworth ’til not a man was left.
iii. The two soon got from guarding time to while Away the hours with Pot, and soon had stray’d To Prurience – as boys do in exile. As Huge bragg’d on the Saigon gals he’d made, Our Knight Errant remember’d he’d betray’d One girl by simply hanging up a phone. All thoughts as noughts anon began to fade. This Wastrel’s wasted brain had turned to stone; And current events turn’d back to The Twilight Zone.
xliii. By bloody weed and alcohol besot In suffocating highs and drowning lows “O Granny, what big boogaloos you got!” He quipp’d, helpless with giggles as the rows Of paper Playboy pictures heav’d and rose From off the walls by flick’ring candlelight To Motown songs that every lover knows As Little Stevie Wonder rang “Up-Tight” He managed a weak moan, “Like, man, it’s, outta, sight.”
xliv. “But how long time,” high Huge was heard to say, “You in our Long Binh hootches gonna dwell? Your orders changed? You train in Cam Ranh Bay. So take your shoes off, Grundy; set a spell At least another day; you might as well. Tonight with me in Tower One you’ll find Incarcerated men in living hell Calle’d ‘El-Bee-Jay’; the Army prison, kind Of like Saint Louie’s Zoo, just out of sight and mind.”
xlv. All over but The Isley Brothers’ “Shout”, And Levi Stubbs had finished his lament, And knew that he’d be there if she’d reach out, And Edwin Starr preach’d WAR the Detriment, Diana Ross’ Supremes could hardly dent The fading consciousnesses all around. The Judge of Night pronounc’d them innocent, So nodding to Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound: They slept a guilt-free sleep until by Day unbound.
xlvi. Bright sun defin’d the fifth day of his year, A double check confirmed what well he knew: “My cushy MP slot’s well to the rear And out of Charlie’s range!” His day he blew It, writing to his family, friends and to A couple hers as well, with words of cheer/sarcasm/hope – depending who was who. He signed them “Pray for peace” or “never fear”, And mark’d them “Free Air Mail”, and felt his conscience clear.