Poem: One grunt flew over the Tigerland

(11 Bravo, A.I.T, Fort Polk, LA, November 1970)

By: Chuck Orloski


On bivouac in Kisatchie National Forest,
a wild combat veteran Drill Sergeant
promised the grunts, “No rain coming tonight,
so no need for you m-fuckers to pitch tents!
Just get ya’ girly asses beneath sleeping bags,
and maybe a Pygmy Rattler will come tuck y’all in.”

On hard earth, tucked in sleeping bags,
Privates Joe and Chuck lay asleep nearby one another,
and come early morning, they felt raindrops upon faces.
All rose to a miserably cold and wet pine leaf forest,
and being of no different disposition, Drill Sergeant
broke U.S. Forest Service rules, and commanded
his grunts to fetch wood and build a bonfire.

No, no, nothing is ever different inTigerland.
Joe and Chuck donned steel helmets and ponchos,
lit cigarettes, sat yogi style beside the bonfire.
Chuck said: “You know, on my first night in Polk,
I went downstairs and entered the barrack latrine.
There, I got shocked to see some strange white guy,
all alone, and stupidly standing on a toilet bowl!”

Joe laughed, drawled: “Maybe he takin’ target practice?”

Chuck said: “Don’t know, but being a Catholic boy,
and not knowing if he ever saw anything but outhouses,
I politely explained how Fort Polk toilets
are special made for sitting during #2 episodes
and standing ground level for making #1.
Very annoyed, he just dismounted, never said a peep!”

The rain let up and bonfire began to die.
Before Joe had chance to reply,
Chuck listened to the fire’s dry crackling sound,
and began to think about Tigerland past.
WW I and II, Korea, ‘Nam grunts, many drafted,
out of writing paper, most wanting to go home.

Joe rose and wiped rain from M-16 barrel.
He said: “Man ‘O man, Yankees are a dumb bunch!
Didn’t ‘ya look to ceiling and see his lynch rope?”

“What the hell are you laying on me, Joe?”

“Ha-ha … I reckon you musta’ saw ‘Fraidy Freddie
up and tryin’ to hang himself for the first time!
Why ain’t you never heard about the Company B
coward who finally got got his way out of Army?
Ha, ha!
Yup, that was Freddie you done saw pissin’, Chuck!”

“What… you got to be joking?!!”

“Nope, the Brass musta’ covered up his suicide,
’cause they reported the motha’ had a tragic accident
while on pass and livin’ it up in Leesville.”

Hello Freddie, wherever you are, it’s me…,
the one who talked you down from the toilet seat!
Nothing ever changes, “The Fog of War.”
We see only what The Top Brass wants us to see,
and they mandate disregard for all the rest,
lie-da-lie, lie-da-lie-lie, lie-da-la, lie-da-lie! *
You’re a hero until you get to see horrors
like Private Chelsea Manning saw.
You’re a proud War Mother until you get
to see what Cindy Sheehan and Mary Tillman saw.

Nothing ever changes in Tigerland, Freddie –
Daily I awaken to stale propaganda rain,
“Need to kill ISIS, thwart Putin, take jobs from China!”
Professionals (in white suits) arrive at day break,
I find neither Rest Rooms nor wailing walls to hide.
Cuckoo, they take me down to the Blackwater shitter
for an 11 Bravo pep talk and inferno baptism.

* Paraphrased from The Boxer, Simon and Garfunkel, March 1969.


Categories: Poetry

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