“If This Be Death…”

(June 11, 2018)

If this be death, then

I can hack it, bravely  said

and then I got scared*


  • (When I returned to consciousness and without any memory of falling and landing in the jumble that had become of that hasty little mortar-pit bunker December 10, 1970, I distinctly recall the first thought: Hell, if this is dead, I can hack it!  Then things got progressively worse: Fool!  If you can think even if you can not see or hear or feel then maybe you’re not dead.  Let’s see if we can taste.  Why?  For Blood, idiot!  You just got blown up and maybe you are bleeding: surely you are in Shock. So gather some spit on your little ol’e fingertips on that right hand you so favor and start running it over your face first, then your head, then your neck and so on and so forth. Why? For you to taste each time for the presence of blood. What’s blood taste like? Why am I so saddled with stupid? Taste for copper. I know you have stuck a cut finger in our mouth before, fool, so quit carping and just do it.  You had a penny in your mouth before? Taste for that! All over. All Over? Eeech!  Damn fool.  Just do it.  Hey: the eyelids are welded shut: no wonder we can’t see.  Welded?  Dried blood.  What’s all that wet stuff that doesn’t taste salty? get some of that on your face and rub it into your eyes and pry those lashes apart and see if you can see, okay?  Sure thing boss.  Hey: I got an idea: why’nt we go into our yoga breathing techniques and try to slow our heart – to quit pumping so much blood out and lower our respiration rate so we appear dead.  No one heard my “Corpsman Up!” cry – No.  I did hear I think someone say ain’t do corpsman on this hill, so we both are in deep shit if we’re still bleedin’ all over the place.  I can see now. Big hole just above me letting in The Monsoon rain across my face.  Means I am alive. Shit (and some other words)!  Now I gotta see about getting out of here.  Still can’t hear squat.  First thing: try moving each arm, each hand, each finger and then go on to the legs and then try to roll to each side and then try to sit up.  Up? Yes, dummy, up?  We’re getting you out of this. If they don’t shoot you first you are going to spend a long time blind and bleeding on you way to Hanoi. Want that? Someone will bag $1600 greenback smackers for your young Marine Corps propagandist ass.  That’s why I never let you get replacement dog tags and that Navy Chief Corpsman back at China Beach wanted you shipped the fuck out of Th’ Nam mos’ rikki-tik ’cause they only make glasses in your prescription at Bethesda for admirals and senators and not some punk assed Marine Corporals who think they are photo-journalists instead of pincushions.  God. This sucks.  We’re a long way from the real platoon bunker and there’s all kinds of wire and what’s this? Flares overhead. Some mortars and some larger shit from Fire Support Base Ross?  Glad to know you seem to be back on-line.  Let’s see if we can scrounge a rifle.  You still got your Randall Bowie on the suspender straps? Yep. Last time we ever sleep in a bunker even if it’s raining: you got that!  Sorry.  I punked out.  We only got a month left before we go on a month of leave and come back for six more months and I was tired of being wet all night ’cause I know we’re gonna be wet – and scared – again, all day long and then the shit really will hit the fan doing this stupid “Marines Who Walk Point” feature for Stars and Stripes Pacific. Two weeks of walking ahead of point, pics and interviews and a week to write and a week to get plowed and I do mean plowed. Danang Press Club: even if they did throw us out the last time.  Gonna be a star.  Yeah, buddy.  Now, quitcher daydreamin’ and see if we can get a couple of flak jackets. Two? Why? One to put on and one to cover our head doofus! Can you see – or feel! – a helmet in all this mess? Just do it! Now! Gawwd! Gotta learn you everything! No rifle, no glasses.  Blind as a bat so the rifle and ammo don’t matter. Got The Blade. That’s just gonna have to be enough.  Move out, Marine.  But, mommy: I’m scared. So? Get your ass in gear, Shit-for-Brains.  I ain’t gonna tell you again! We got out of there and much ensued.)

2 thoughts on ““If This Be Death…”

  1. part of an on-going series of comments, poetic reflections and mishmashed impressions I wrote and sometimes committed to reptilian reflection about a (longer, actually) three-day span from December 6 through December 10, 1970 in Quang Nam Province, Vietnam beside a fearful little place known colloquially as “The Football Field” where local legend had it a thousand years prior Vietnamese patriots engaged the hordes of Chinese invaders and ever since this patch of barely fertile rice paddy excess land just below The Que Son Mountains’ final eastward jut towards DaNang and The South China Sea like a querulous dagger of irregular edges aimed at the heart of a nation had seen the peasant heroes fight in their turn the French, the Japanese and the Americans…not to mention having ousted earlier the ethnically dissimilar Montangards (which term is an ethnic slur for a series of tribals who inhabit the thorny mountainous spine of at least South Vietnam from its northern border through The Central Highlands, many of whom were despicably ignored by American State Department and Congressional stalwarts after having been promised succor and if necessary relocation to America for joining our fight in that beautiful ravaged land. Eventually, may Nung and other tribesmen’s families did emigrate to America after a shameful series of relocation camps and sometimes harrowing seaborne adventures…the term adventure has been described to me in writing as the undergoing of serious physical, mental and emotional trauma and threat by another person and my you as an engaged and comfortable reader. I do digress, no?

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