"The drama's done. Why then does any one step forth? Because one did survive the wreck." Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Sordid Chancre
(after the style of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Kubla Khan")

In Mekong Delta’s heat and sweat,
where Asshole of the Universe
and Bottom of the Barrel met,
about as close as one could get
to uselessness or worse,
a base “advanced” and “tactical”
for warfare quite impractical,
built on a riverbank near some canals
existed to enforce some clever schemes,
dressed up in military rationales,
for thwarting peasant independence dreams.

This place, a Sordid Chancre (not envisioned)
was staffed by surplus sailors (elsewhere, ballast)
who’d done no crime but still felt there imprisoned,
and though with food and beer they were provisioned
sheer boredom left them feeling numb and calloused.
Short-timer’s calendars marked each day’s passing;
sporadic incidents – “V.C.” harassing --
some movement in the countryside at night;
some mortar rounds exploding. Sirens! Light!
Then body bags and wounded flown away
for treatment somewhere on some other day.
“Vietnamize” the war, Dick Nixon told us.
A word that meant “get out” is what he sold us.
But not too fast or we might look defeated
So take your time in hauling ass, he said
which meant that more of us would wind up dead.
And then, in time, we’d see it all repeated.
Those fishermen and farmers had some nerve
to think they’d rule themselves and not just serve.
   So we went. Then some returned.
   Re-election time drew near
   Villages and rice-fields burned
   Nixon won. What’s left to fear?
Our military got to play its role
assisting Saigon with the loot they stole

   Hammers looking for a nail:
   The Pentagon since World War Two.
   Hammer salesmen, their careers
   left the Budget in arrears.
   Nothing they could ever do
   should induce one to suspend
   skepticism, disbelief
   as the Truth they choose to bend.
Hence, the need to scream: “Stop! Thief!”
Folks at home should moan, “Take Care!”
“Look at what a mess we’ve made!”
The glassy eyes, the vacant stare;
the deer caught in the headlight’s glare;
the gale force winds of pure hot air:
a solipsistic serenade.
So heed no pundits who’ve opined
For they on bullshit gruel have dined
and drunk the urine of Crusade.

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