By Chuck Orloski
No, no… at ease all
soldiers of the War for Civilization!
And pay no mind to the poem title ’til later?
It is July 2002, city of Scranton fallen into debt,
Britain’s media dares accuse M16 of
sheltering shady terrorist-at-large, Abu Qatada,
and (only child) Charles is anxious to depart
father Charlie’s near lifeless bedside
at the Taylor Nursing Home, make return to work.
Antiseptic and urine smells made Charles gag,
fluid stealthily drained into father’s swollen feet,
his heart, less than 10% capacity,
oxygen tube kept dropping from nose passages
and 50-year old Charles told him,
“Pop, I ‘gotta leave for work soon
and I hope you remember I am here?”
No answer except for the intermittent
terror of Charlie’s dry cough,
“Cuh, cuh, cuh.”
Embarrassed for dad’s crusty nakedness,
Charles tugged upward upon bed sheet;
he preferred no one got to see father’s
scarred stomach and exposed limp dick & balls.
“Cuh, cuh,” responded Charlie,
and the son didn’t cotton to Nurse Oliver’s
inevitable “front row”view of private parts
which once activated and miraculously made him.
Incredibly, Charlie’s brain is back in the 6th Army,
“You’re in the Army now and not behind a plow,”
a P.F.C.’s delirious return to war, 1944!
Seconds flew faster than an Armchair General’s retreat
until Charles finally understood his Pop’s
young again, on a mission to clear Catmon Hill.
“Cuh, cuh, cuh.”
Charlie and friend, Sgt. “Hook” LaCoe, are at rest
after having safely waded through Leyte’s
swampy terrain, M1’s overhead, tootsies wet,
and under fierce Japanese mortar attack.
“Ha-ha… it’s too late for me now, farmer boy!
Since Old Man Bradley put out orders
for troops not to drink the water, and after eatin’
too much mangoes, I got green-red blood in stools!”
“Yea, Hook, I sure did hear about the (expletive) pills
Command’s handing out that’s supposed ‘ta purify
soldiers piss for emergency jungle drinking water.”
Well, when I get home to Bryn Mawr Street,
I’ll have a bundle saved because ‘O me mailing home
all the army paychecks to my father’s safekeeping…
Ha-ha, maybe I’ll meet Mae West, buy a Pontiac? 1.
“Uh, Hook, can ‘ya tell me if ‘ya believe all
‘dem rumors about Japs and their idiot will
to keep fighting in caves, even when mess kits
filled with rice and weeds are empty?”
Outside Room #220, visitor and staff footsteps,
sounded like Nike boots-on-the-ground.
Bin Laden, Monsanto, and heroin besieging America!
Charles scanned Pop’s walls; a St. Nicholas icon,
a 911 poster tacked to bathroom door, heralding
missing Twin Towers, “The 2nd Pearl Harbor!”
“Cuh, cuh,,” enemies and war are everywhere!
A lonely death rattle scared Charles more than
the suspicious white powder found (by an orderly)
upon dad’s updated invoice for Nursing Home services.
“Cuh, cuh,” spoke the disposed WTC 7 dust,
“indeed enemies are everywhere!”
Charles returned to work, Safety-Kleen, Inc.;
he never got to hear the Nip mortar shell explode
and rip apart dad’s once six pack abs.
Inside Room 220, the last Mazda 626 rolled off
a Japanese production line, the truck driver died alone,
but for Hook LaCoe’s unheard parting words of sorrow,
“So, Charlie, ‘ya done left me behind to tackle the T.P.P.,
change in the Gulf stream, Steel Rain, and Fukushima?”
1. My father’s sister, my Aunt Sue, once told me the sad story about how my (drafted) father mailed home all his US Army paychecks. Charlie anticipated that his father, my “Dziadek,” intended to put away all the money for when his son returned home from The Big One. Unfortunately, Dziadek was a coal miner, alcoholic, suffered first effects of dreaded Black Lung. Aunt Sue informed me how Dziadek spent all his son’s war paychecks and nothing was left. She made sure I understood that Charlie forgave his father. (Finally, July 2008, dairy farmer Sgt. Ira “Hook” LaCoe passed away, and I often speak with his daughter Lenay and husband Jerry)