Sunday, May 31, 2009

Kim Jong Il's Twitter

Mack Hall

Kim Jong Il’s Twitter

My Twits: Bashar, Hu, Lula, Hugo, Umar, Vladimir, Triet, Robert, Saddamn (channeled via Jane), The Shadow, and Mickey.

12:10 A.M. OMG Obama is like so not my BFF!!!!!!!

12:14. OMG a note from the imperialist yankee state department. Obama is so like my BFF again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanx for the Hillary poster dude!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! U rok!!!!

12:32. OMG like I got a new toy – nuclear missiles! Like, I’m so not going to have More-Than-Supreme General Park shot now cuz I fell better!!!! Oooooo this is so better than viagra!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

1:11. OMG Saddamn that was so NOT funny about “power-lift shoes.” U no I got bad ankles!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My doctor said so the one I accidentally had shot not the one I got now!!!!!!!!!!!!!

1:15. OMG okay like the nxt time im having a bad day I’m like so going to nuke shanghai!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

1:17. OMG Hu that was so like a joke u no & that thing about my hair being taller than the rest of me was so not kool!!!!!!!!!!!!

1:20. OMG Hu u no your my homeboy BFF 4-ever!!!!!!!!!!!!! That correspondence with Obama was just pity for him ok???????????????

1:22. OMG I just remembrd my nuke missiles bring on the jade girls!!!!

1:23. OMG that octomom is such a hottie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

1:24. OMG Hugo do you h8 Amerika as much as i do??????????

1:26. OMG me 2 hugo I line up my star wars dolls and label Darth Vadar “Amerika” and Luke Skywalker “me” xcept whn im feeling u no special and then I label Princess Leia “me.” But keep it a secret ok!!!!!!!!!!!!

1:30. OMG no Robert hugo SO lies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

1:31. OMG Hugo you crossed your heart & promised not to tell!!!!!!!!!!!!!! U are so NOT my BFF now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

1:33. OMG u people stop making short jokes & princess leia jokes now I MEAN IT I got nuke missiles now IM DA MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2:00. OMG like u no I had a cabinet meeting & had some counterrevolutionaries shot it was so kool seeing them begging for their lives thatz why they call me Dear Leader. Ok like I got nukes now so Im wearing THE BIG-BOY PANTS just like Obama so he’s got to be my BFF for now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2:05. OMG so lik im going to wear a seahawks cap back’ards I’ll look soooo coooool!!!!!!!!!!

2:06. OMG r maybe Ill wear my Special Forces Colonel uniform with the mossy oaf cammo pattern & my silver-plated ak-47 special Lenin model with the picture of princess Leia on the stock!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2:10. OMG did I tell u guys about my nuke missiles!!!!!! I am like so SOMEBODY now and they got to RESPECT me!!!!!!

2:15. OMG its so 215 in the morning so I am so ready for bed now with my Mickey on my pillow and my Princess Leia on the other side of my pillow and my fairy princess nite lite and my guards all tall and handsome outside my door & a special fone by my bed that connects me directly to my big nuke missiles I feel so snug and special nitey-nites!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A LITURGY FOR THE EMPEROR -- now available on

I am pleased to announce that my appropriately slender, rather expensive, and quite excellent book of poetry, A Liturgy for the Emperor, is now available from If you have read it, do post a review on Amazon. If you haven't read it, your purchase of it will indulge both my ego and my bank account! There are many small pieces, including sonnets, and the longish eponymous poem, "A Liturgy for the Emperor," is in honor of Byzantium.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Decoration Day

Did John Kerry place a wreath on himself today?

-- Mack Hall, Viet-Nam Class of 1969-1970

The Class of 2009

Mack Hall

(Yes, I'm plagiarizing from myself; I post this, modified, every year.)


Children insist on growing up and going away. Oh, sure, there are always one or two of whom one can sing “Thank God and Greyhound you’re gone,” but the loss of most of them is very painful, very real, very acute, and very forever.

Here, Class of 2009 are some disconnected factoids your old English teacher meant to tell you earlier in the year, before the month of May very cleverly sneaked up on all of us:

1. In October you will return for homecoming. You will find many of the same teachers, school, and friends you left behind. But you won’t be on the team or in the band; it isn’t about you anymore, and that will be oddly disturbing. The same school that once nagged you for tardiness and absenteeism will now require you to wear a visitor’s badge if you show up on a school day. By October of next year, most of the students in your old high school won’t know who you are -- or were. And they won't care. You'll just be old people.

2. Some day surprisingly soon you will hear shrieks of insolent laughter from your child’s room. You will find your child and her friends laughing at your yearbook pictures. You and your friends will be subject to scornful dismissal by a new, cooler-than-cool generation. You will feel very old.

3. Billy Graham attended a public school; Adolf Hitler attended a Christian school. Don’t obsess on labels.

4. You are not going to win the Texas lottery.

5. You're a little bit too old for a MySpace. Time to grow up.

6. Have you ever noticed that you never see “Matthew 6:5-6” on a sign or bumper sticker?

7. College is not high school. Work is not high school. There is no such thing as an excused absence in adult life. The boss will not care about your special needs, sensitivities, artistic gifts, or traumatic childhood.

8. Most people are good, and can be trusted. But the two-per-centers, like hemorrhoids, do tend to get your attention.

9. Listening to radio commentators with whom you already agree is not participating in our democracy. There was a school board election a few weeks ago – did you vote? Or did you just complain?

9. Tattoos do have one useful purpose – they will help your relatives identify your body after you die of some weird disease that was on the needle. Oh, yeah, sure, the process is sterile – a tattoo parlor looks like a hospital, right?

10. Your class ranking is little more than a seating chart for graduation, reflecting your performance in a sometimes artificial and often passive situation for the last four years. Your future is up to you.

11. Put the 'phone down. Grasp the steering wheel firmly with both hands. Stay alive.

12. Save the planet? Reform the establishment? Stop meanies from beating harp seals to death? Get a job first.

13. Time to wear the big-boy pants.

14. You are now the “they.” You are the adult. You are the government. You are the Church. You are the public school system. You decide what movies will be watched (if not made). You decide what will be on the television screen in your home. Your life is your own – don’t become one of the sheep.

15 . Giving back to the community begins now. Do something as an act of service to humanity -- join the volunteer fire department, teach Sunday school, clean up the city park one hour a week, or assist at the nursing home. However, if you find that more evenings and weekends are spent at these activities instead of raising your family, learn to say no to extra demands.

16. Don’t bore people with sad stories about your horrible childhood. No one ever lived a Leave It To Beaver or Cosby existence. And besides, you might have been the problem. Get over it.

17. The shouting, abusive, 1-900-Send-Money TV preacher with the bouffant hairdo strutting about on the low-prole stage set while beating on a Bible and yelling is not going to come to the house in the middle of the night when your child is dying, you don’t have a job, and you don’t know where to turn. Your pastor – Chaucer’s Parsoun -- may not be cool, may not be a clever speaker, may not sport a Rolex watch, and may not have a really bad wig, but he’s here for you. Support your local congregation. Oh, and never say to anyone “We missed you in church last Sunday,” because that’s really saying I was in church, and you weren’t, so nanny-nanny-boo-boo,” and where does that imperial “we” come from anyway? God has not appointed you to be His attendance officer.

18. Don’t wear a shirt that says “(bleep) Civilization” to a job interview.

19. When someone asks for a love offering, offer him your love and watch his reaction. He doesn’t want a love offering; he wants money. Sloppy language is used to manipulate people. Call things by their proper names, and hang on to your wallet.

20. Stop eating out of bags and boxes, and learn how to use a knife and fork. From now on the menus should be in words, not pictures.

21. When you find yourself facing a dinner setting with more than two forks, don’t panic; no one else knows quite what to do with three forks either. No one’s watching anyway, so just enjoy the meal.

22. A great secret to success in a job or in life is simply to show up.

23. There is no such thing as a non-denominational worship service.

24. You will always be your parents’ child. You may become a doctor, lawyer, banker, or, God help you, president, but your mother will still ask you if you’ve had enough to eat and remind you to take your jacket in case the night turns cold. And parents are a constant surprise -- they always have new knowledge you need to acquire.

25. According to some vaguely named family institute or some such, raising a child to the age of eighteen costs the family $153,000 and a few odd cents. The taxpayers of this state spend about $5,000 per year on each student. Thus, a great many people have pooled their resources and spent about $213,000 on you since you were born. They did not do this in order for you to sit around complaining about how unfair life is. Do something.

26. There was never a powerful secret society variously known as The Preps, The Rich Kids, or The Popular Kids, just as there are no unmarked U.N. helicopters.

27. Thank you notes: write ’em. It shows class. You don’t have to pay big money for pre-printed notes; buy notepaper with pictures (hunting scenes for the guys; flowers for the girls) on the outside and nothing on the inside. You can write; you’re a high school graduate, remember?

28. The school award you should have received: For Compassion. While I must confess that I was happy to see some of you on a daily basis because that way I was sure my tires would be safe, there was never one single instance of any of you taking any advantage or being unkind in any way to those who were emotionally or physically vulnerable. Indeed, most of you took the extra step in being very protective of the very special young people who are blended into the student population. There is no nicely-framed award for that compassion, not here, anyway, but even now there is one with your name on it on the walls of a mansion which, we are assured, awaits each of us, in a house with many mansions. God never asked you to be theologically correct; He asked you to be compassionate, and you were. Keep the kindness within you always.

29. Take a long, lingering look at your classmates during graduation. You’ll never see all of them ever again. In ten years many of you will be happy and honorable. Others will have failed life, and at only 28 will be sad, tired, bitter old men and women with no hope. Given that you all went to the same cinder-block school with the same blinky fluorescent lights, suffered the same old boring teachers, drove along the same dusty roads, and grew up in the same fading little town, what will have made the difference?

Well, Class of 2009, it’s time to let go. Thanks for everything: for the pictures and paper balls and pizza and pep rallies and recitals and concerts and games, for your thoughts and essays, for your laughter and jokes, for usually paying attention to roll call (“Focus, class... focus...focus...focus...”), for really thinking about Macbeth and Becket and Beowulf, and those wonderful pilgrims (us, of course) forever journeying to Canterbury, for doing those business letters and resumes’ over and over until YOU were proud of them, for wrestling with iambic pentameter, for all the love you gave everyone around you every day. Take all those good things with you in your adventures through life.

And whether we shall meet again I know not.
Therefore our everlasting farewell take:
For ever, and for ever, farewell...

--Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, IV.iii.115-117

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Notre Starbuck's

Mack Hall

A recent news photo features a Notre Dame senior wearing a wispy I-finally-got-some-testosterone beard and a slogan skivvy shirt, both now as obligatory in America as a keffiyah is in South London, the tee whining: “Please don’t ruin MY graduation.”

You just know that this will tug at the heartstrings (what are heartstrings, anyway?) of 22-year-old corporals and privates fighting it out in 120-degree heat in the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq. “Please!” they will write in impassioned letters to Time magazine and Dan Brown, “Don’t let the meanies ruin that lad’s college graduation. After all, he has worked so hard in air-conditioned classrooms for the last four years.”

On Friday, an 80-year-old priest singing the hymn “Immaculate Mary” on the campus of Notre Dame was arrested for trespassing (the ironies stack higher than the ego of archbishop and archembezzler Rembert Weakland). The sensitive, bearded youth in the slogan undershirt will be safe. That old meanie who meant to ruin the sensitive youth’s graduation was hustled off by at least three kampus kops. Ya gotta watch out for 80-year-olds singing hymns; they’re dangerous to the tough, rational minds forged and sharpened in the fires of four hard years of intellectual give-and-take at Notre Decaf Latte’.

And it’s all about freedom of speech. But whose? Mine, of course, because I’m special; my mother says so.

If you’ve ever listened to a graduation speaker you are painfully aware that you have forever lost an hour of your life when you could have been doing something far more creative, such as trimming your nose-hairs or giving the pooch its heart-worm medicine.

Every commencement speaker assures his listeners that his speech will be different from any they have ever heard, and yet all graduation speeches manage to auto-negative pressure themselves into a grey hole of mixed metaphors and pure Woosterian blather:

“Young women and men: you are the long-awaited hope of the huddled masses, just like your MySpaces say. Your four hard years of intellectual endeavors and service here among the dreaming spires of Bob’s College are the key that will unlock the road to the bright, shining future mountaintop of this promising land of visions of ours. Go forth and make your realities the dreams of the marginalized and dispossessed whose hearts and minds await your deconstructed truths of the nature of personkind.

“Some might say that you are a lost generation of FaceBook surfers interested only in the glib and the shallow. But last night your class president, Heather “Mike” Scumwalligan-Snortle, the first-ever transgendered, undocumented, poly-racial graduate of Bob’s College (hold for wild applause), simultaneously a single mother and a single father, who had to make do with only five federal grants, shared with me some of her-his thoughts about making America great again: draft beer (hold for more wild applause).

“I can only concur with Ms. Scumwalligan-Snortle’s golden dream of a richer, better America that reaches out to the homely and the homeless and beerless with a fearless courage and bravery that speaks and thunders and whispers the wonderfulness of the Bob’s College Class of 2009 (hold for applause and air-horns). I see your selflessness and your generosity and your open-mindednesses and, like, stuff, misspelled in glued-down glitter on your mortarboards. Anyone who can spend long, selfless hours in brotherhood and sisterhood with his or her sisters and brothers gluing glitter on a mortarboard while singing the sound-track from Mamma Mia is a real intellectual with an iconic passion for the future of accessible health care for all, including dachshunds.

“I see among the graduates Poncy Thworbt, president of Gamma Alpha Sigma Fraternity. Some people say that fraternities are outworn institutions that have become nothing more than excuses for promoting alcoholism and homoeroticism. Some people see fraternity brothers stripping pledges naked and beating them up so they can call each other friends and brothers, and ask why. Well, my fellow Americans, I ask why not. My fellow inheritors of Turtle Island, when you’ve shoved the head of a freshman down a toilet bowl until he almost drowns, that’s brotherhood, that’s love, that’s compassion, that’s respect for the dignity of one’s brothers and sisters.

“And with us today is Heather-Mysteee-Shannon StarDawn who in solidarity with the starving children of the world composed a heartfelt song and accompanied herself on her guitar, spending weeks making a MyMyMySpaceToob of her heartfelt and passionate artistic performance in order to comfort the starving children of every race and creed and color on our planet. Now that’s what I call making a difference. You rock, Heather-Mysteee-Shannon-Dawn!

“Some cynics might suggest that you should now get off your baccalaureates and get what they claim is a real job. How little they know! You, the Bob’s College Class of 2009, know the agony and suffering and sacrifice of constructing a really good MyMyMyFaceBook entry (pause for air-horns)! You’ve all labored long into the night, sustained by nothing more than beer and pizza and pure thoughts, downloading shiny, glittery, public-domain unicorns onto your unique ‘blog to demonstrate to the world how special you are. You tell me that’s not real work!

And so let the word go forth that you are very, very special indeed. Go forth and heal and change the world and the harp seals and the polar bears with your passions as iconic filmmakers, artists, community activists, computer graphics designers, and writers of cutting-edge haiku, and give back by taking a gap year at someone else’s expense so that you can make a difference!

(Wild applause)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Spider, The Cockroach, The Man

English 430
Stephen F. Austin State University
Dr. Barbara Carr
27 June 2001

Upon reading Leigh Hunt's "To the Grasshopper and the Cricket" and John Keats' "On the Grasshopper and Cricket" in Dr. Carr's Class, 27 June 2001, on a theme suggested by a classmate. Note: No Shakespearean sonnets were harmed in the making of this poem.

The Spider and the Cockroach

The Spider speeds along her spin-spanned sphere;
She senses that her lunch has lurched into
Her airy, aeolian kitchen where
It will be rendered into housefly stew.

Nocturnally the Roach broods silently,
Meditating among the doggy bowls
Upon the kitchen floor, a poisoned sea
Where Raid! doth steal exoskeleton'd souls

And blundering through my own small world come I
Most hungrily, with cup and plate in hand;
Like the Spider and Roach, my lunch I spy
There -- where the refrigerator doth stand.

Thus Spider and Roach and an aging Dude
Share their universe while searching for food.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


#6 was hired to play a game of chess with Death in one of those grainy black-and-white Ingmar Bergman films. #6 kept checkmating Death in three or four moves, spoiling the film's narrative flow, and so was sacked.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

How Many Dead Aggies Does it Take...?

Mack Hall

College Station, where there is a college but no station, is segregating a section of its new city cemetery for Aggies only.

There is no word yet on whether the Aggies-only section will rest adjacent to the exclusive Elvis impersonator section. The answer might be indexed in the official guide to funerals in America, Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One.

Ross Albrecht (’84), marketing manager for the new cemetery, told the Associated Press that the use of Texas A & M symbols will be “correct and respectful.” The entrance to the Aggie section will be a “Spirit Gate” between two concrete columns faked up to look like limestone, and for the discerning Aggie there’s nothing that says correct and respectful like chunks of concrete painted to look like something else.

Correct and respectful pallbearers could be rounded up from The Dixie Chicken.

Maybe the maroon Aggie hearse will be drawn to the cemetery by twelve little Reveilles wearing maroon mourning plumes.

Although Texas A & M has no direct connection with the city cemetery, the school will license the use of trademarked A & M logos and other symbols. This means that if you – for reasons best known to yourself – wish to have your mortal remains decorated with an image of Ol’ Sarge, you will have to pay Texas A & M for permission.

Licensing agreements guarantee the quality of Texas A & M’s acounts receivable. The difference between a cheap, unlicensed, made-in-China tee-shirt proclaiming “Fightin’ Texas Aggies” and another cheap, licensed, made-in-China tee shirt proclaiming “Fightin’ Texas Aggies” is, well, nothing except a tag.

Will we ever see a tee proclaiming “Studyin’ Texas Aggies?”

Made-in-China Texas A & M coffee cups, made-in-China Texas A & M neckties, made-in-China Texas A & M lunch buckets, Made-in-China Texas A & M portable toilets, and now, dug-in-College Station Texas A & M holes in the ground, license fees payable to the university.

And some people say America isn’t a religious country.

A sales brochure preaches "The concept is that the Spirit of Aggieland travels in a ceremonial way from the campus to the Aggie Field of Honor through this final gateway." If that isn’t straight out of the Gospels I don’t what is.

At this writing no one is clear whether or not having posed nude or semi-nude will be a bar to resting in peace in The Aggie Field of Honor.

If the University of San Francisco were to feature a cemetery, would the trustees establish an Eternal Joint exuding faux marijuana smoke in The Mahareshi Yoga Guru Garden of Like, You Know, Where It Is Forever 1968?

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology would have to license Star Trek Action Figure grave markers from Paramount. Funeral services might be offered in Klingon.

A beauty school – the Dear Departed is buried with a 21-hair-dryer salute.

Good ol’ A & M, coming up with a brand-new century-old tradition every year or so.

But what if…just what if Aggies who Pass On To The Other Side make their last Whoop! at the pearly gates only to discover that Saint Peter wears burnt orange?

Hullabaloo, caneck, caneck!

Saturday, May 9, 2009


#6 often regaled the other prisoners in THE VILLAGE with crude jokes about a quite impossible relationship between #2 and Rover.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Writing: K.I.S.S.

One of my final-exam questions for my Lamar University, Angelina College, and Kirbyville High School students:

16. Rewrite the following CBS-ism as one complete sentence using five or fewer words:

In my own personal opinion, and in conclusion, at the end of the day, the bottom line is, when all is said and done, when the fat man sings, that Mother Nature, in the awesome form of mighty Hurricane Ike thundering and slamming ashore in a turbulent and fateful pre-dawn, wreaked havoc on our homeland, snapping trees like matchsticks and leaving a swath of destruction in her wake that looked like a war zone and changed our lives forever, requiring us to seek closure and healing from grief counselors.

Writing: K.I.S.S.

One of my final-exam questions for my Lamar University, Angelina College, and Kirbyville High School students:

16. Rewrite the following CBS-ism as one complete sentence using five or fewer words:

In my own personal opinion, and in conclusion, at the end of the day, the bottom line is, when all is said and done, when the fat man sings, that Mother Nature, in the awesome form of mighty Hurricane Ike thundering and slamming ashore in a turbulent and fateful pre-dawn, wreaked havoc on our homeland, snapping trees like matchsticks and leaving a swath of destruction in her wake that looked like a war zone and changed our lives forever, requiring us to seek closure and healing from grief counselors.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Yes, #6 catches the swine flu. He catches it, has a few quiet conversations with it, and persuades it to attack #2.

Freshly-Baked, Farm-Fresh, Home-Cooked Feed 'n' Seed

Mack Hall

Once upon a time Main Street in my little town featured The City Café’, but one never hears of that anymore. If the establishment still existed it would surely advertise itself as “Mama’s Country Café’” or “Country Cookery” or “The Country Home Cooking Lone Star Café.’”

Advertising in this part of the world is all about the country thing, even when the concept of country is irrelevant to the matter. When you sit down to the good ol’ bacon and eggs in the morning you know very well they were not cooked at home or in the country; they were cooked in the back of the café’ by Juan. If you want home-cooking, stay home and cook. If you want to start the day with the crossword and someone keeping the coffee flowing for you, you drive out of the country and into town. Town is where they keep the country cafes.’

And speaking of cafes’, a friend noted that one in Beaumont did not feature even a single rusty license plate on its walls. Is that legal? Doesn’t the health department cite restaurants for not having rusty license plates? I think I saw that on Channel 6.

And then there are the various car dealerships prefaced Cowboy. A cowboy is an agricultural worker who herds cows. There really aren’t any of those around here. Car dealerships based on real-world workers would be named Petrochemical Operator Fiat, or perhaps Receptionist Volkswagen, or maybe Pipefitter Opel.

Almost every bread product is billed as fresh-baked. Well, yeah, when a Kaiser roll (and does the Kaiser know about this?) is baked, it’s fresh. A more accurate labeling would be: “This Kaiser roll was baked, then packaged, then loaded on a truck, then driven around East Texas until it was finally off-loaded at this store, and now it’s resided on this shelf for an indeterminate time.”

This leads us to farm-fresh. Is a farm fresh? How fresh? A really honest ice-cream commercial would feature a cow with the scours.

One longs to see a church called Certified Public Accountants for Christ.

Maybe hospitals will follow the country theme: “Yes, ma’am, let us deliver your baby in the country fashion. And don’t mind the livestock grazing in the delivery room.”

Or lawyers: “You got a case against that company that employed you and put up with your absences and indolence and petty theft all those years before finally sacking you? Let our crack country team of country lawyers take th’ Burdizzos to ‘em! Yeeeeeeeee-hawwwwwwwwwwww!”

Chinese cars: “Howdy, pardner, this is Tex Chang of Shanghai Motors, and ah’m here to tell you about our proven line of Red Star hybrid pickups, now available in North America. Whether you’re haulin’ prisoners to execution or vegetables to th’ market, you’ll be country-proud you’re country-savin’ th’ country planet by country-drivin’ a country-hybrid Red Star pickup.”

And, hey, how about that country-swine flu, eh? Rumor has it that it’s going to be bought up by a foreign company and the virus out-sourced to Italy, with you and me paying for it all.

The Sky to Moc Hoa

Mack Hall

The Sky to Moc Hoa

The sky to Moc Hoa is hazily blue,
Layered between heat and Heaven. The damp
Rots even the air with the menace of death.
The ground below, all green and holed, dies too;

It seems to gasp: You will not live, young lad,
You will not live to read your books or dream
About a little room, a fire, a pipe,
A chair, a pen, a dog, a truth-told poem
Flung courteously in manuscript pages
Upon a coffee-stained table, halo’d
In a 60-watt puddle of lamp-light.

You skinny, stupid kid. You will not live.

Then circling, and circling again, again,
Searching, perhaps, for festive rotting meals,
Down-spinning, fear-spinning onto Moc Hoa,
Palm trees, iron roofs, spinning in a dead sun,
Spinning up to a swing-ship spinning down.
A square of iron matting in a green marsh,
Hot, green, wet, fetid with old Samsara.

Gunboats diesel across the Van Co Tay,
Little green gunboats, red nylon mail sacks,
Engines, cheery yells, sloshing mud, heat, rot.
Mail sacks off, mail sacks on, men off, men on,
Dark blades beating against the heavy heat,
The door gunners, the pilot impatient.
All clear to lift, heads down, humans crouching
Ape-like against the grass, against the slime
In sweating, stinking, slinking, feral fear
As the dragon-blades roar and finally fly,
And the beaten grass and beaten men
Now stand again erect in gasping heat,
Some silent in a new and fearful world.

You will not live, young hero; you will die.

What then of Dostoyevsky and Chekhov?
What then of your Modern Library editions,
A dollar each at the Stars & Stripes store
Far away and long ago in DaNang,
All marked and underlined? What is the point?
What then of your notebook scribbled with words,
Your weak attempts at poetry? So sad,
So irrelevant in the nights of death.
The corpses on the gunboat decks won’t care,
Their flare-lit faces staring into smoke
At 0-Two-Damned Thirty in the morning –
Of what truth or beauty are your words to them?

You haven’t any words anyway;
They’re out of movies and books, all of them.
What truth can adventure-story words speak
To corpses with their eyes eaten away?

Write your used emotions onto a page;
You haven’t any emotions anyway;
They’re out of the past, all of them.
What truth can used emotions speak to death?

So sling your useless gear aboard the boat:
A seabag of utilities, clean socks,
Letters, a pocket knife, a Rosary,
Some underwear, some dreams, and lots of books.

And board yourself. Try not to fall, to drown,
To be a floating bloating, eyeless face.Not yet.
Think of your books, your words. Look up:
The sky to Moc Hoa is hazily blue.


1. Moc Hoa, pronounced Mock Wah -- a town on the Vam Co Tay River near the border with Cambodia.

2. “Young lad” or “lad” – employed sarcastically of recruits by chief petty officers.

3. “Young hero” – employed sarcastically of recruits by chief petty officers and of Navy Corpsman in Field Medical Service School by Marine sergeant-instructors.

4. Utilities – heavy, olive-drab, 1950s style Marine Corps battle-dress issued to Navy personnel on their way to Viet-Nam. Too darned hot. I had to scrounge lighter clothing.

5. Samsara – in some Eastern religions the ocean of birth and death.

6. Gunboats – here, PBRs, or Patrol Boat, River. The history of this excellent craft and its use in river warfare is well documented.

7. Stars and Stripes store – more accurately, any one of the chain of Pacific Stars and Stripes book stores.

8. Swing ship – a helicopter, in my experience always the famous Huey, employed for carrying supplies and personnel on routine routes. The pilots sometimes spun them in very fast in order to try to avoid ground fire.

9. Seabag – duffel bag.

10. Skinny kid – most of us were.

Saturday, May 2, 2009