The day begins before dawn,
Ninety-some odd pawns,
South to a stream on a water draw.
Five hundred meters, that's all!
No sweat! Nice trip going down,
Picking souvenirs off the ground,
A lighthearted air abounds,
No where could you find any frowns.
Finished gathering the last canteen
From the shore of a shallow pristine
When the first rounds clipped the scene.
Bursting out with that ricochet beat,
Climbing the rocky bank back up from the creek,
Hustling toward the sound of that perilous greet.
Just past six AM as Ashau chimes,
Two slain and one of ours stretched out in the grime.
Rummaging through the pack of an enemy that was bloodied,
Kidding and joking with a pimple face buddy.
Carrying on like before, as if we didn't care,
But my dime said that he was really scared.
A prophetic glimpse and already combat bled,
But neither had an inkling of the ruffling ahead,
Merely youthful teenagers who would instead
Become old men in a day's span,
And then suddenly the horrible nightmare began.
Small arms crackling! Men shouting!
Moving forward at a quick pace on the scouting.
Then sprawling, crawling every single inch a contested
Looking up, a LAW! Back-blast, inside-out turnabout,
My eyes, my face, the burning! I need a cigarette!
AL's shrieking "You're okay. This ain't no Russian
Recon verifies the eyes are commissioning
And the mouth and nose remain in the proper positioning
I was tickled pink that nothing was leaking,
But my nerves were on the verge of freaking.
The noise! My God! The noise! Ringing a tell!
A never ending, high-pitched barrage from hell!
I must be inside the ball of the bell?
Exhilarating fear screaming above the yells,
Greenery raining from the flying shells,
To only get beneath the slightest swell.
Who is that over there that fell?
Pressing forward with resounding emotion,
In freeze - frame slow motion,
Then a fast- forward winding commotion,
Generating a whipsawed notion.
The senses magnified beyond amplified
To the umpteenth glorified!
And then back to horrified! "They're on top of us !"
An adrenalin rush!
Nature takes a deep breath and shakes her head in disgust
As banana trees fall in a hail of projectile gusts.
Lead in sheets, swimming, streaming everywhere
Wondering what the hell am I doing here?
Compass, map, MOS, leeriness,
Fruit juice sprinkling mistiness, "God please don't leave me hanging without hope",
Still prostrate creeping up the grassy tree thick slope.
Not a single Marine misunderstood
When the skipper yelled "Get 'em like they did at Belleau
This was the warrior's battle-cheer,
Eyes meeting head on with piercing fear.
And any sympathetic ideas of dying
Playing second fiddle to duty crying.
Conveying without saying in that gazing glare,
Anxious, fearful men rallying each other to bear,
Rising together as one despite the scare.
Then without any warning, abruptly jolted
By the incoming life thieving explosive.
Sleeping a minute or four,
Ordered by a superior to report
Far away into another port.
Atop that bunk bed,
Cozy blanket over his head,
Such a wonderful place where he fled,
A sniff of mama's home made cinnamon bread,
No one could ever find dread,
With this heavenly dream that he wed.
But warm and snugly turns to flat out ugly,
The next breath is held on destiny's scales smugly.
The earth is charred and the maimed are tread.
A boot lying there with the heel shred,
My head propped up above grassless rivers of red.
The hungry ravaging predator rages on and must be fed.
Boom! Boom! Suspended animation! Levitation, gravity looms!
Zoom! Zoom! Zeroing in, dust and debris cover the tombs.
"My God! He's ripped from head to heel!"
Sheared like a razor slit. This is surreal.
Can't stop the bleeding from the legs, hip and side.
Blood is squirting and the guy is wide-eyed,
Scared shitless and terrified!
Someone else is there tangled, mangled beneath.
Gut shot injury tended while grinding my teeth,
With the wrappings resembling a colorful wreath,
Peeling off the smell of singeing skin.
How could any nation ask more of its kin?
Mortar round that tore our soul,
Hit right in the thick, tightly blinding the whole.
Driven into the mouth of sheol
Where many will say farewell.
Funneled to the adversary's lap,
Triple canopy, adorned in a speckled crimson wrap
From the sacrificial lambs,
With the elms towering above the dueling rams,
Mythological silhouettes that applaud and clap,
Doing the wave when the combatants zap.
"God, it's my boot now!", cowardly peeking. "The toes, I see the toes, they're wiggling."
Lily-livered thinking as the eyes ease
Around the eclipse of the knee. "The foot! The foot! It's there, covered in debris.
I am okay. Just bleeding."
But there are so many injured pleading.
Did what I could with battle dressing and tweaking.
Liquid warmth. Something wet, oozing inside.
Surely fate is just teasing on my side? "Oh my God! I'm hit! I'm gonna die!" "Corpsman! Corpsman! My bandage is spent!"
Frightened even more by Doc's apparent intent
Of picking yours truly over the others in lament,
I was terror-stricken as he wrapped my chest.
Said, "You'll be okay." A pat on the crest
And off he went to answer another request,
Which was an awesome, incredibly selfless bequest.
Then shock started to set in.
A queasy feeling, sick within.
AL's voice, "Get on the damn radio. I'll scrounge a working
16." "Okay, but can't you see the antenna's blown to
smithereens?" "There is no way to get through to the arty
Fumbling, bumbling, frigging shot to hell Prick Twenty-Five. "I've got a fire mission and this piece of shit won't
Wishing I didn't have to give a damn,
Over and over again, cyclical mayhem.
Above the uproar profanity was the norm,
Echoing throughout the storm.
Three times he sat up, three times the lead hit him square.
Every rising, shaking his fist wildly in the air,
While ranting and raving with a loud swear.
Listening to his hollering above the relentless thunder, "Shut up, Fool!", I thought. "Knuckle
Each recurrence déjà vu made me
The revolving door of time and space did plunder.
But in this case it was battlefield weird comic blunder.
The cycle ended and my friend did not rise to incite
On the fourth whorl or raise his voice again this fight.
Skipper is yelling, "Bring that arty in close!"
My reply, "Can't you hear? My radio's broke!"
Trying to get through over and over again until I choke. "I got a fire mission. Can you copy?" But no one
Except an echoing voice "I'm hit! I'm hit!" Then nothing
Once again the portal spun open and eagerly it devours
As the countless reverberations of the furor continued for
Then a premonition. Rolling over as the AK rounds kick dirt! "That was close-knit!" Zipped my hip. I see the little
Forty Five jammed. Murphy's Law. I bit my lip. "Shit! That
Hand to hand in front and to the flank,
Wounded piled up like money bags at the bank,
Fifty calibers blazing from their U-shaped ranks.
Snipers in the trees, exhale and then squeeze.
Machine guns on the opposite ridge tease
Taking dead aim at a mouse sniffing the cheese.
Sheep led to the slaughter, only a matter of the seize.
Lieutenant C was hit and Crack Shot's dead,
XO too! So many more riddled with lead.
Everywhere is the smell of death and munitions.
Always the roaring of the engines,
Deafening assault of unrelenting retributions,
The frenzy boils. They're closing in for the spoil.
Finally, that moment of truth when toil
Cannot be forestalled and the hand is extended.
This day's chore appears to have finally ended.
And then, it was so quiet. Silent like a graveyard at
Only it was broad daylight. My ears hurt from silent fright.
Stunned and startled, thinking "Am I dead or
Heaven, hell, or a last reprieve?
I relaxed my head next to the tree,
Nose flush with the turf, prostrate, still. Delta had
Thank God! I had survived!
Agonizingly, it began again. Closed my eyes,
Head drives back into the tree, expecting demise.
Fingernails plowing the battlefield, weeping inside.
Knowing that this had to be the final scheduled flight.
Envying those who had departed early in the fight
And had already taken last rites.
A quick prayer to join the deceased,
But as it started without notice, so too, it did cease.
The dug-in attacker had curtsied in retreat
As Delta's arrival had encouraged them to beat-feet.
Frozen in time around the six mark. Face buried in a mound,
Praying solemnly, I halfheartedly rolled a half round.
Took the blood stained picture from a pocket I had found,
Reverently placing it on the hollow ground.
Silently said a last good-bye and slowly, with the help of a
Wobbled to a knee. Then staggered to my feet.
Looked at the carnage and thrilled to be alive,
Yet sickened by the bludgeoned. Wondering how had I revived?
Though I be many years hence removed from that horror,
What remains is the overwhelming sensation of an honorer,
That every single day since gives praise as a borrower.
And the eerie, mysterious, angelic sway
Can clearly be seen in my mind's display,
Offering that hand straightaway.
The wounded part of me lies there to this day
In that distant land, glancing down on Ashau
That sanctified tree-lined knoll
Along side my sweetheart's picture.
And frozen in a snapshot stricture,
Alpha 1/9 forever locked in that turnaround climb,
Suspended in a revolving door of space and time.
by Terry Presgrove
... who is a decorated Marine combat veteran and freelance
writer, and whose poetic inspiration dates from the 11 September
2001 terrorist attacks. The Vietnam Quatrain comprises
The Revolving Door, The Morning
After, The Stolen Key [Locked
In Stone], and What A Shame. Specimens
of his other work may be accessed at his website.