“Pastor Marty* Takes Friday Break”

February 8, 2019)

nineteen-sixties rock

on the am radio

brit invasion theme

*(Pastor Marty, an ordained minister of The Gospel, now ensconced “in an anonymous grain elevator in northwest Ohio, spins 60s top-forty radio tunes on his Drive After Five once-a-week break from his usual passion of politics, social and pop commentary, with an occasion sermon thrown in, on Mims’ radio 840 AM WPGS. Marty is more than a gas. He’s (one of) God’s Gas. And he loves rock. That makes him special. Marty Braemer is worth the lookup on FB or You-Tube. You’ll figure it out. Or just tune in to WPGS or the many platforms he mostly is allowed to inhabit, though he does get sent to “Time Out” occasionally.)

“No-Tell Rake-Hell” Tanka 2260*

(February 8, 2019)

didn’t even rake

hell so well but I did spy

a no-brake twelve speed

hiding behind the big hedge

wait for a thief or owner

*(I had just broken the wooden handle on the Ace Hardware leaf-rake, but I did want to gauge the amount of ranking I would have to do with the bow rake, a pain, but I did want to add all those fallen oak leaves to the compost. I saw the bike a-crumpled into the hedge fronting the school across the street. I picked the bike – a nice newish 12-speed – and checked the front (some) and rear brake action (none at all). Pretty much convinced me the bike was stashed and most likely would be left as useless for a thief. An owner – especially with a parent – would come to the front door and ask. I had the bike camouflaged and not indoors. The best place to hide anything is right out in public pretending it’s a giraffe in a school play. If no one comes to ask it well might make some kid happy next Christmas after I readjust the cables to the brakes.)

“Standing Waist Deep” Tanka 2263

(February 10, 2019)

standing waist deep near death

a squad of newbies don’t see

why must they get wet

smell betlenut spit nearby

right on paddy dike’s edge*

*(Right after Typhoon Kate in late 1970, the Combined Unit Pacification Program reinforced squad of U. S. Marines from the First Marine Regiment, atop a hill overlooking Elephant Valley, right beside another long-feared Antenna Valley, I am the senior man in a short squad – eight or so – walking a combat patrol. Mostly new guys – FNGs or Newbies in the decidedly uncomplimentary vernacular. All wear new combat boots and their web gear (the rest of their 782 war gear, too) all looks new. But that is not the telltale. Could be reissue. The point team leads out atop the rice paddy dike, avoiding the deep and still waters of a feeder canal to replenish or drain the life-giving rice fields the Marines are sworn to help protect and defend from Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army regulars higher up in the mountains overlooking the rain-flooded and wind-damaged valleys below. I raise a fist and the rest of the squad behind me halts and the leading edge last-guy up on the paddy dike halts, too when he hears no movement behind him. Eventually, the point man looks back at me, questioning. I motion him over: I had seen the lieutenant in charge of the CUPP platoon who had been arguing with his two Navy hospital corpsmen assigned to his command as medical personnel about which of the two would be evacuated with high fever later that day when a resupply/reinforcement helicopter might make its appearance. I figured the Butter Bar (second Lieutenant) told his troops I was an old hand he knew and despite being a writer/photographer, he wanted them all to know that I was a corporal – never wore rank in the bush – and what I said went despite not being one of theirs. My boots were rubbed raw white, my cammy (camouflage) utility blouse was rimed with sweat. I had two bandoliers of M-16 magazines crossed-my-bra (hah!) with a quick-release trick from an overlarge safety pin which made it easier to shuck off my shoulders in a hurry. And another bandolier of mags ’round my waist under the flak jacket. My Randall bowie knife rode its special perch handle-down and point up, my Ka-Bar combat knife was on a low-slung loose belt. Didn’t carry a bayonet. None available and why bother. I got the rounds and never did fire on full automatic yet. A magazine in my flak jacket front pocket and both side pockets of my jacket bulged with fragmentation and smoke grenades. I had one canteen slung on eyehooks on the flak jacket, just beside the emergency bandage/first aid set-up kits. In short I had what they did not. Perks of being a combat correspondent with access to steal from damn near anyone’s armory and supply setup. I carry beer and U.S. Army dehydrated LRRPS (longrations) in my pack and another 400 rounds of rifle ammo in two bandoliers at the very bottom of my pack, ready to be ripped out with a knife-fade slash at a moment’s notice. The nominal squad leader, a Lance Corporal set up on a knee on the paddy dike – I had already waded into the canal and four of his men were in the ditch with me. “Didn’t anyone tell you, especially after a few days of not being near, like during or just after a typhoon, it’s not good practice to walk the dry places when on a first patrol?” The Lance Coolie looked deep into my face, his rapid eyes scanning and reading. “Thanks. We’ll get down and do Tail-End Charlie. I’ll come up and walk your point, Okay?” Fine, I said and we all got wet and miserable and weary together. Not a single sighting. My kind of patrol. Both “Sea Tiger” (The USMC in-country weekly newsrag) and Stars & Stripes Pacific printed photos of one of those men – eyes and being intent on his assigned “arc” on this walk in the water. “I entitled the photo in my caption: “Sometimes The Hunted.” I stayed away from that squad and that platoon the rest of my two months remaining “in the bush” before I was scheduled for a 30-day tour-extension vacation to South Africa come February. That plan changed abruptly January 9-10 and I got a free trip on a C-141 AirForce Star-Lifter to Japan and then to America. Different batch of people I did not know and for the first time ever in Vietnam in the bush I shitcanned my personal discipline and slept a a rainy high-monsoon night in a bunker instead of wrapped half-mummy style in a poncho-and-liner affair out in the open. Who’s the dumbass now?)

“Greg Sloat & Rick Lillie Killed But Not In Action” Tanka 2265

(February 10, 2019)

one year every now

greg and rick found no more

fell out of the sky

they saved my life with their own

on Lam Son Seven-Nineteen!*

*(Rick Lillie and Greg Sloat, both Marine Combat Correspondents – Rick a writer/photographer and Greg a photographer – came through my awareness separately in 1970 in Vietnam. Greg, in the field: a competent and taciturn though easy-to-smile big man who did his job and kept his own counsel. Rick passed my less-than-sober path at An Hoa Combat Base at the edges of Arizona Territory, a much-disputed patch of land South and West of Danang, home of our then-termed Public affairs outfit with the First Marine Division. I was curing my case of continuing cowardice with copious infusions of ill-gotten Budweiser and other amendments. Rick was induced to join the merriment at my formerly solitary squalid Fifth Marine Regimental Press Center. I got him drunk and with the help of a fellow from the adjoining sea-hut with a tent top patching the holes in the tin roof when one of our own “tubes,” this time a 175-mm big gun flat wore itself out and exploded just after passing the last round ever it would fire, the resulting shrapnel penetrating many local neighborhoods. Hence, the tarp of tent. And it scared unholy not-Jesus out of my press center’s major-domo, the largest, grayest Norwegian rat ever on record. It lived in the rafters of my hootch, perched on a lower stringer and watched Armed Forces Vietnam television day and night when not occupying itself with scavenging conveniently half- or not-at-all eaten c-ration chow from always opened tins placed in a pile just outside the hatch (door) to my abode in a topless bunker dugout (in case of enemy rocket fire which before I was evicted from my Seventh Marine Regimental home in the Que Son Valley where I’d come to think of as “home.” So, to give me something to do, I unbuttoned Rick’s jungle cammies blouse (Marines call any shirt or coat a blouse. Don’t ask me why: maybe Archie Henderson was a crossdresser back during the First and Second Seminole Wars where the then-Major Commandant of the entire U. S. Marine Crotch left but a lame senior sergeant to answer the mail and hied the whole shebang hence to Florida’s Everglades, which in those days almost touched Lake Eola – I deficate you not! I then opened a pair of cans of peanut butter and fake yellow cheese spread and applied each to the good sergeant’s now-nekkid chest area. He was drunk enough not to notice. But, eventually, Felix The Rat found the enticement too good to just sit and stare at meaningless Marine – and other branches’ – clean-and-sober television hosts announce the not-news, so our good buddy hopped on down and crawled slowly is way to breakfast. He loved the unique combination of peanut butter and cheese. He chittered low-ranged enough on the meter for me to hear and I went back to my beer. Then, suddenly, I was wakened from my ambulatory stupor with this shout and sound of a large weight being thrust to the deck. It was Rick. He came off the floor (deck) in a rush, found his chest all a-mess with unnatural substances – possibly even scared-Rat poop. Felix was contributing to the commotion. Rick glared at us both and grabbed the proffered green towel – personally in those days I had taken to using a faded pink terrycloth towel to drape over my shoulders and neck. I still wore a bright red, yellow, black and blue-flecked sweatband woven through the faux shotgun shell bands stitched into the upper bands of my combat bush hat. Sergeant Lillie was less than composed and discourteous to me and I told him he hadn’t ought to take out his ire on a lowly Lance Corporal like that. Snuffies’ Union might take up the matter at our next – which would be our first if ever we had one – meeting. I handed Rick a brand new tee shirt – green, of course – and extra-large cammy blouse and moments later a beer and a triple shot of Jack (Daniels) and he simmered down to a slow smolder. Soon thereafter Rick wend his way out of the Division to take up time at The First Marine Air Wing. I had wrangled a new assignment as senior Sergeant in the Ward of Patients in 8-West (the surgery ward) of Jacksonville Naval Hospital just after my 30-day survivors leave – not counted as annual leave – and spent a pleasant end-of-January in a semi-private hospital room, complete with two small trashcans, both filled with ice inside a thick plastic liner, custom cut, into which half a case of canned beer sat. All was going swimmingly until next mail call sometime early if February. Stoney Merriman’s second letter to me came with the news. After Operation Lam Son 719, a Vietnamese Army operation launched into Laos from the former Marine combat base called Khe Sanh, Greg and Rick were flying back in a helicopter from that legendary outpost and somewhere near Hue City the chopper came down and all aboard were killed on impact. No auto-rotation, no word on enemy fire, no word on anything but Rick and Greg were dead. For the second time in a couple of months all USMC writers and photographers were pulled out of the field – we called it The Bush – and returned to DaNang to do what? Hell. I dunno. Mourn? Word when I got hit – the first in more than a year – everyone pulled back to DaNang because almost all of us then there were “short” as the division was already begun rotating men and units back to Okinawa and later California. It took years before I found out how Rick and Greg bought their individual farms. And, so, with but two more years to go to the fiftieth anniversary of two more Marines reporting to brothel-guard duty right inside Peter’s pearly gates, I will take some time to find an appropriate “Slop Chute” and find the worst swill possible to toast those two guys, and once again apologize to Felix for sic’ing Rick Lillie on that poor large not-mouse.)