Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day III: Something about Life - poem

Lawrence Hall
mhall46184@aol.com

Memorial Day III: Something about Life

“Live. Just live.”

-Yuri in Doctor Zhivago

The plane lifted, and the cheering was wild
And then pretty quickly the pilot said
“We are now clear of Vietnamese
Territorial waters.” There was joy,
Even wilder cheering for most, and quiet
Joy for a few. For one, Karamazov
To hand, peace, and infinite gratitude.
“I’m alive,” he said to himself and to God,
“Alive. I will live, after all.” To read, to write,
Simply to live. Not for revolution,
Whose smoke poisons the air, not for the war,
Not to withdraw into that crippling self-pity
Which is the most evil lotus of all,
But to live. To read, to write.
                                                 But death does come,
Then on the Vam Co Tay, or now in bed,
Or bleeding in a frozen February ditch;
Death comes, scorning our frail, feeble, failing flesh,
But silent then at the edge of the grave,
For all graves will be empty, not in the end,
But in the very beginning of all.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Memorial Day II: Bad Morning, Viet-Nam - poem

Lawrence Hall
mhall46184@aol.com

Bad Morning, Viet-Nam

No music calls a teenager to war;
There is no American Bandstand of death,
No bugles sound a glorious John Wayne charge
For corpses floating down the Vam Co Tay

No rockin’ sounds for all the bodies bagged
No “Gerry Owen” to accompany
Obscene screams in the hot, rain-rotting night.
Bullets do not whiz. Mortars do not crump.

There is no thin rattle of musketry.
The racket and the horror are concussive.
Men – boys, really – do not choose to die,
“Willingly sacrifice their lives,” that lie;

They just writhe in blood, on a gunboat deck
Painted to Navy specifications.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Memorial Day I: Liturgy in Time of War - poem

Lawrence Hall
mhall46184@aol.com

Liturgy in Time of War

I will go to the altar of God
To God who gives joy to my youth

ENTRANCE ANTIPHON

The dawn (evening) is coming, another hot, filthy, wet dawn (evening). Let us arise, soaked in sweat, exhausted, to speak with sour, saliva-caked mouths, to meet the deaths of this day (night).

GREETING

In the name of Peace in Our Time,
For the Hearts and Minds of The People,
For the Land of the Big PX
For round eye and white (black) (brown) thigh,
I greet you, brothers.

PENITENTIAL RITE

All:

I confess to almighty God
And to you my brothers
That I have sinned through my fault
In my thoughts and in my words
In what I have done
And in what I have failed to do,
And I ask Blessed Mary…

But how can I ask Her anything now?

My brothers,
Pray for me to…

But how?
Priest: (But there is no priest)

KYRIE

Lord, have mercy
Christ, have mercy
Lord, Lord, have mercy on us now

Have mercy, Lord, on a generation
That sits smugly in college lecture halls
And protests endlessly in coffee shops
The war they hear, see, on T.V., for free
Justice and peace by the semester hour
Like, y’know, peace, love, Amerika sux
Play the guitar, toke, apply to law school

Have mercy on us
Who crouch behind sand bags
And clean our weapons
And protest nothing
And kill in the heat
And die in the hear
And throw ham and lima beans away

GLORIA

Glory to God in the highest
how many bodies yesterday?
And peace to His people on earth
Vietnamese? Or us?
Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father
ham and lima beans?
We worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory
Doc, I can’t go home to my wife with this clap
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father
cigarette, canteen cup of instant coffee
Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world
playboy magazine
Have mercy on us
relief behind the sand bags
You are seated at the right hand of the Father
i rot
Receive our prayer
i want to be clean and dry
For You alone are the Holy One
clean and dry. just once.
You alone are the Lord
why do they chew that?
You alone are the most high
you mean the betel nut?
Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father
incoming!
Amen


PRAYER

A

Father, you make this day holy.
Let us be thankful for
The many little joys of
This day, for life, for
The chance to worship
You. In the end, bring
Us to you, so that we
May be cleansed of mud
And sweat and filth and
Guilt, and live with you
In peace forever.

B

Father, just get me through
Another day of this mess.

LITURGY OF THE WORD –

FIRST READING

From the Intensive Care Unit, NSA DaNang

A twilight world
Of neither peace nor battle
And of both

A man world
Embracing life and the grim death
Both

Peering into infected wounds
Night building shiver
Down from the black sky flares float

Broken bodies from the war somewhere
Eyes of a shattered nineteen-year-old Marine
Staring at the door to Yokosuka

PSALM

A Song of Descents

I cast down my eyes
Into the mud
Into the blood
It seems cleaner than death and drugs and casual sex
Drink Coca-Cola

I turned my eyes away from you, O Lord
And made this
Build this
Came to this
Samantha and Darren on Bewitched

Have mercy on…but how can we ask? How dare we ask?

SECOND READING

Old Man, Viet Nam

Old man, a dog is barking at your heels
Old man, with the tired, weathered face
Are you afraid to turn around and deal
This dog a kick, to put him in his place?

Or is it, old man, that you’re just too tired?
Just too tired to turn and show anger
Just too tired to have your temper fired
Beaten by years of contempt and danger

Where are you going, trudging so slowly?
What are you thinking, behind those tired eyes?

Probably not about ham and lima beans

GOSPEL

In the Cold White Mist

After an all-night run on the river
Our boats arrive in the village at dawn
Dawn is never cold along that rive
Along that steaming, green, hell-hot river
But the mist is cold, the grey-green dawn mist
And after the engines are cut – stillness
Foul brown water laps at the mudding bank
Sloshing softly with fertile, smelly death

In the cold white mist

The boats are secured, and watches posted
We step off the boats and onto wet land
And follow the track into the deep mist
It becomes the street of a little town
A dairy lane along which cows slopped home
And where dogs and chickens and children
played
Bounded by carefully swept little yards
And little wooden houses with tin roofs

In the cold white mist

But some of the houses are burnt. The smoke
Still hangs heavily in the whitening mist
The lane is littered with debris. A lump
Resolves itself into a torn, dead child
Across a smaller lump, a smaller child
Their pup has been flung against the fence, its
Guts early morning breakfast for the morning
flies
We smoke cigarettes against the death-smells

In the cold white mist

Beneath a farm tractor rots a dead man.
When they – they – had come at sunset
He had hidden there. And they shot him there
A man with bare feet and work-calloused
hands
His hair is black; his teeth need cleaning
They shot him beneath the village tractor
His blackening blood clots into the mud
And our lungs choke in the white mist of death

In the cold white mist

White mist. The path disappears into it
Smoky skeletons of little houses
In which there will be no tea this morning
No breakfasts of hot tea and steaming rice
No old widows to smile in betel-nut
No children to mock-march alongside us
Pointing at our big black boots, and laughing
At us, for wearing shoes in the summer

In the cold white mist

They are dead and rotting in the white mist
On the edge of the jungle on the edge
Of the world, here along the Vam Co Tay
And the people pour out of their houses
To greet us on the fine summer morning
A corpse across a doorway, another
Bloody-doubled across a window sill
Still another strewn down the garden path

In the cold white mist

The other patrol doubles back to us
And they tell us that the Ruff-Puff outpost
Must have been overrun the night before
He had heard their radioed pleas, and had
Run the river at night to get to them
And the ARVNs had fled through the village
And the VC had stormed in behind them
And it was knife-and-gun-club night in town

In the cold white mist

A little girl is the lone survivor
She looks may six. Cute, except for the
Bubbling, sucking, bayoneted chest wound
We patch her, and tube her, and use suction
Sort of like fixing a bicycle tire
And in the wet, gasping heat take her back
With us downriver, where a charity
Hospital leaves her on the steps to die

In the cold white mist

It will be our turn again tomorrow
Not a one of us died today. Today.
But a village is gone, burnt and rotting,
Soon to disappear into the jungle
Along the green Cambodian border
Up some obscure river. Up there. Somewhere.
A few hundred people. Their ancestors’ graves
Will fade with them untended, forgotten

In the cold white mist

Radio Hanoi might blame it on us.
But maybe not. We made our report and
Nobody really noticed; no one cared
The talk is of the VC battalion
And where it has gone, and where it might go –
Maybe into death under an air strike
“And you guys better get in some sack time,”
Says the C.O. as he turns to his maps.

In the cold white mist

HOMILY

I’m scared, and I want to go home. I don’t care any more about justice or fighting Communism or winning the hearts and minds of the people. I can’t think about all that right now, because I’m scared, and I want to go home.
I don’t care about truth or loyalty or bravery or honor. If Miss March were here she wouldn’t get cold, but she sure would get sunburnt. And in a few days her skin would start rotting. Then nobody would want to see her in the nude anymore.
I’m scared, and I want to go home.
Up the Vam Co Tay, everyone is scared, everyone is tired, everyone is sick, everyone could die: sailor, soldier, officer, priest, farmer, fisherman. Everyone rots in the wet heat. The skin bubbles and flakes and peels, and is pink again, to bubble and flake and peel again.
I’m scared, and I want to go home.
I’m Doc. I’m a scared, stupid kid with an aid bag and a few months’ training. But I’m Doc. I’ve got to fake it. I’ve got to be cool and calm because this other kid with his guts hanging out will probably make it if I don’t screw up and if the dust-off from Saigon can get out here now.
I have an old dog at home, and my folks write and tell me she sleeps outside my window at night, waiting for me to come home. Someday we’re going to run and play in the woods and fields again. She’ll bark and run wide circles, and dare me to catch her. I will laugh under the autumn leaves. But now my nights are glaring darkness, fits of sweat-soaked half-sleep, then sirens and falling glares and falling mortars, and then the Godawful racket of all our engines of destruction. There isn’t any use in all this.
I’m scared, and I want to go home.

And I don’t want any ham and lima beans.

CREED

We believe in the Land of the Big PX
In presidents in suits, and generals,
In makers of economic strategies
We believe in flak jackets and .45s and peace

We believe in swing ships and dust-offs, yes
In the dark, green omnipresent Huey
Eternally begotten of technology
Blades to rotor, windscreen to machine guns
Made, not begotten, one in being with us
Through it all things are transported to us
For us men and our hunger and our hope
It comes down from the skies
By the high power of technology
It was born of the long assembly line

For whose sake are we crucified today?
Who suffers, and who dies and is baggied?
And on the third will arrive back home
To be neatly packaged in stainless steel

But not in ham and lima beans

LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST

Preparation of the Gifts

Celebrant:

Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation.
Through your goodness we have this cheap Algerian wine to offer,
Fruit of the vine and work of human hands.
It will become anaesthesia for our souls.

People:

Blessed be…we just don’t know

Celebrant:

Pray, brothers, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father, to somebody. Maybe.

People:

May the Lord, or the baggies, accept the sacrifice we offer with
our own burnt hands
For the praise and glory of…of what?
For our good, and the good of all His Church.

PRAYER OVER THE GITS

Little green cans, and I don’t care
Little green cans, and I don’t care
Little green cans, and I don’t care
Air cover’s gone away.

EUCHARISTIC PRAYER

Preface for the Monsoon Season:

Father, all-powerful
And ever-living God,
We do well always and everywhere
To give You thanks
Through Jesus God our Lord
Even with diarrhea
thanks
When the mail doesn’t come
thanks
When we rot
thanks
When the heat sucks at our brains
thanks
When the mud sucks at our boots
thanks
When the horror sucks at our souls
thanks
We’re alive
thanks

SANCTUS

Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of power and might
The bunkers are full of blood and death.
Hosanna in the mud. Blessed is he who comes with the mail. Hosanna in the mud.

EUCHARISTIC PRAYER

The Kien Tuong Province Canon:

A sailor is silhouetted against the dawn
Along a steamy river
Mostly helmet and flak jacket
Above dark plastic gunwales

The sailor has lost his New Testament
But there’s a Playboy around somewhere
Naked, willing women –
Miss March wants to be an actress

He also carries an old plastic Rosary
To touch occasionally
While whispering a hurried Hail Mary
He hopes She understands

Those who in bell-bottoms and head-bands
Fight Fascism
In Sociology 201
Will never forgive him

A sailor is silhouetted against the dawn
This day he is to be elevated
His body broken and his blood shed
For you and for all men

OUR FATHER

Our Father, who art in Heaven
this ain’t it
Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come
this ain’t it
On earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day…
not ham and lima beans
And forgive us our trespasses
as we shoot them that trespass against us
And lead us not into ambush
But deliver us from evil

SIGN OF PEACE

Peace on you.

AGNUS DEI

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy….

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: grant us peace.

Priest:

(But there is no priest)

People:

Lord, I am not worthy to receive you,
But only say the word and I shall be killed.

COMMUNION ANTIPHON

They ate, and were not satisfied
They killed, and were not without fear.

PRAYER AFTER COMMUNION

Lord,
If we do not get out of this
Make some sense of it to those who remain
May we go home. Home. Or if not,
Take us unto you, in mercy.
Home. Where you reign, for you are Lord
Forever and ever. Amen

BLESSING

May you walk on grass that does not explode
May you sleep without rot
Without fear
May you never see or smell ham and lima beans again.
May you live
May you play with puppies
May you find forgetfulness
May you find peace
In the Name of Him who took your death for you

DISMISSAL

This is to certify that_________________is Honorably Discharged from the________________on the____day of_______________. This certificate is awarded as a testimonial of Honest and Faithful Service.

CLOSING HYMN

Old men, smoking in the sunshine
Exiled outside the doors of life
Old uniforms, old pajamas
The chrome of wheelchairs, shiny, bright

Inside, polished wooden handrails
Line the hot, polished passages
Something to cling to on the way
To the lab, to x-ray, to death

And more old men, shuffling along
In a querulous route-step march
From Normandy, from The Cho-sen,
From the Vam Co Tay, from the deserts,
Past the A.I.D.S. ward and the union signs
On waxed floors to eternity

Portions previous published:

“Closing Hymn” is from “Outpatient Surgery – Veterans’ Hospital,” Juried Award, Houston Poetry Fest 1993

“In the Cold White Mist” is a Juried Award, Houston Poetry Fest 1991

“Old Man, Viet-Nam,” was published in Pulse, Lamar University, 1982


Friday, May 26, 2017

Clinic Waiting Room with French Impressionists - poem

Lawrence Hall
mhall46184@aol.com

Clinic Waiting Room with French Impressionists

The ball-capped men, old men, sit motionless
Arms folded in existential disapproval
They read not, no, and neither do they toil1
Over boxes that light up and make noise

French impressionist lilies soften the walls
Echoing with educational racket
A cartoon shark counting the numbers off
To a child embalmed in a plastic box

While his mee-maw looks to eternity
Through a door that opens from the other side

1Saint Matthew 6:28-29

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Fifth Karamazov - poem

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

The Fifth Karamazov

When young we identify with Alyosha
His optimism and his innocence
His fragile, flowering Orthodox1 faith
A happy, almost-holy fool for Christ

When older, the sensual Dimitri,
With irresponsible lusts and desires
Grasping for the rewards of the moment
Now, ever now, wanting everything now

Then older still, as intellectual Ivan
Sneeringly aloft, above all faith and flesh
A constructor of systems and ideas
From the back pages of French magazines

Though never do we identify with
Nest-fouling, leering, lurking Smerdyakov
Our secret fear, unspoken fear, death-fear:
That he might be who we untruly are

But hear, O hear, the holy bells of Optina2
Those Russian messengers3 singing to us
Inviting us to meet Alyosha again
At Father Zosima’s poor4 hermitage


1Russian Orthodox
2The name of the real monastery upon which Dostoyevsky modeled his fictional one
3The Brothers Karamazov was first published as a serial in The Russian Messenger
4Poor only by earthly standards

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

On the Occasion of the Firing of the Director of the F.B.I. - poem

Lawrence Hall
mhall46184@aol.com

On the Occasion of the Firing of the Director of the
Federal Bureau of Investigation

Immaculately vested in suits and ties
Men fly about in executive jets
And pay each other to investigate
Each other for paying each other

To fly about in executive jets
And pay each other to investigate
Each other for paying each other
To fly about in executive jets

And again investigate each other,
And laugh with each other on the golf course

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hymn of the Holy Drum Set - poem

Lawrence Hall
mhall46184@aol.com

Hymn of the Holy Drum Set

A middle-aged man in an open shirt
A shaped and sculpted five-0 shadow fuzz
An earring and a tat, sneaks and jeans because
He wants to reach the kids where they’re at

And where they’re at is in suppressed giggles
At an old man with a pimple-microphone
Around his face like mucous on a wire
They pocket-text each other angelically

“Can I have an ‘amen?’”

He puts the devil in a world of hurt
That middle-aged man in an open shirt