"Innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, intending no harm." Graham Greene, The Quiet American

Grungy, Grim
(after the style of Rudyard Kipling’s Gunga Din)

Now it isn’t smart to camp
where you haven’t got a lamp
with the moon and stars alone to light the way.
Mangrove forests all around
some defoliated ground.
There us foreign sailors kept the “foe” at bay
Tons of sand on Delta mud.
Concept landed with a thud.
From the “safety” of this base we fired away.
While we aimed to stay afloat,
others tried to sink our boat.
Not exactly someone asking us to stay

It was Dim, Dim-and-Dimmer, really Dim
Doesn’t matter, she or he or her or him.
If we wanted you to think
we’d have issued you some ink
and a pencil, saying “fat” you spell as “slim”

Up a creek without a paddle
wisdom said we’d best skedaddle
like we later would from far Afghanistan
but the military brass
thinking with its simple ass
wished to still deploy the spare enlisted man
with an officer or two
ticket punching, as their due,
hoping not to test their short attention span.
Then the time comes to depart
hoping someone’s learned the art
of concluding what we stupidly began.

It was Dumb, Dumb-and-Dumber, truly Dumb.
Doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from.
If we wanted you to know
we’d have told you long ago.
Just salute or paint it: that’s your rule of thumb.

Still some thought we knew the name
of a song they thought would tame
Asian peasants who’ve a different tune to play
So we brought “advisers” in
who commenced to live in sin
helping Saigon compradors to make some hay
"Kill a gook for God,” we said
also, “Better Dead Than Red.”
“Kill them all and let Lord Jesus sort things out.”
Place in power those we bought.
Say “Democracy” a lot.
Demonstrate the principles we always flout.

It was Grim, Gritty, Grimy, Grungy, Grim
Vietnam, the End-of-Nowhere’s metonym.
There the government said go.
Stall for time. Put on a show.
So we sang our Empire’s dog-and-pony hymn.

Elmo Zumwalt, C.N.O.,
said that if we wished to grow
beards or mustaches we could -- to help morale
My commander, though, disputed
what he thought “morale” imputed
so he sent me to the most remote locale.
Feeling not the least repentance
I set out to serve my sentence
for the crime of growing hair upon my face.
Fourteen months at Solid Anchor,
more in aimlessness than rancor,
thinking someday I’d rejoin the human race.

It was Droll, Damned, Demented, Dreary, Dense
All these things at once without a lick of sense.
Chow, tobacco, sleep, and beer.
Can I please get out of here?
Hopefully, before the next attacks commence.

Looking ragged, feeling bored
like a one-man Mongrel Horde
Uncle Samuel’s Canoe Club (US Navy),
Forest Gump and Gunga Din,
Castaway, nothing to “win,”
I survived – “shit on a shingle” (toast with gravy).
Most came home. Some never knew.
Some still think of those we slew
both our ignorance and hubris on display.
And the tally of the game?
It’s as if we never came
‘cause the river, mud, and mangroves won the day

See, it’s Screw, Screwed-and-Screwing, you’re the Screw
Makes no difference, us or them. It’s we or you.
You’re just empire’s conscript whores
which is why you lose our wars
‘cause you have no need to fight them. Still, we do . . .

Michael Murry, "The Misfortune Teller," Copyright © 2023