18 November 2005

Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People


            Chiang's Heat Stroke

            Told me about the time he got
            Heat stroke, years ago,
            In the army, on a blistering hot day,
            Marching with pack and rifle
            For miles and miles
            To nowhere
            Round and round an eastern island.
            He’d been feeling sick, but
            This was the army
            So nobody believed it.
            Later he had to stop just had
            To stop to drink to rest a while,
            Just to rest a while, so he
            Fell out of file with all these
            Bright white spots
            Swarming in his vision.
            But the PC thought he was
            Faking it, yelled at him,
            Kicked his shins
            And called him a fucking
            Lazy lousy bastard
            So he got up dazed and
            Went on dragging his boots
            On a trail through the
            Soaking hot jungle.
            Later he fell out of line again
            And the PC really lost
            His temper, raised a rifle butt
            To hit him on the head.
            The bright white spots exploded,
            Burst brilliantly like suns
            In his head,
            So that everything else in
            The world went black.
            He couldn't walk couldn't talk
            Couldn't think anything except that
            This was a stupid place to die
            And why couldn't he feel his legs.
            They stripped off his uniform,
            Poured water over his
            Head and chest, slapping his face
            Repeatedly so that he wouldn't
            Faint, and all this time
            He wondered why he couldn’t
            Feel his legs.
            Someone said, "Don't worry, you'll
            Be alright," so many times
            He was sure he wasn't going to be alright.
            And later, the chaotic dreams of
            Flame and ice, metallic gigantic
            Dragonfly wings swirling,
            As they rushed him by chopper
            To the mainland hospital.

            You think of this as one of those things.
            They happen. The years pass,
            And some things about those years Chiang even
            Remembers fondly. But now he tells me
            About his former PC, and he says,
            "I'll never forget him. The lousy bastard."
            He raises his voice just a little, with a touch of hate,
            Repeating the words. "I’ll never forget him.
            Lousy bastard." So matter-of-fact. So clear.
            After all this time, he says it so cold and hard
            You wouldn’t know how not to believe it.
posted by Gilbert at Friday, November 18, 2005

7 Comments:

Blogger dsnake1 said...

Gilbert,
reading your poem brings back a flood of memories of the things i did during the army days. Some i remembered fondly, some are best forgotten. It's always debatable whether some of the training are over the top but our army is young then, and finding its way around.

Really love these lines : "Couldn't think anything except that
This was a stupid place to die".
Power!

Thanks for the read.

November 19, 2005  
Blogger kite said...

Hmm...

"Couldn't think anything except that
This was a stupid place to die"

broke my heart.

November 19, 2005  
Blogger dreamer idiot said...

A couple of my Singaporean friends have similar stories about near despotic PCs. The almost casual lines:

"You think of this as one of those things/They happen..."

together with these lines taut with memory

"He raised his voice just a little, with a touch of/hate/Repeating the words: 'I’ll never forget him./Lousy bastard.'..."

tells how all some of these extreme forms of army code and discipline become part of a collective memory of the good, the bad and the ugly of this rite of passage for S'porean guys.

Really evocative poem.Thx.

November 19, 2005  
Blogger Orso Dorato said...

This even evoke emotion from me, someone who knows nothing of war or true fear.

I have a favor to ask as well. I was wondering if you and anyone else who cares to would take a look at some of the stuff on my blog(( the newer poems and the short story)) and tell me what you think and what i did wrong. Thanks in advance and thanks for the good..no.. Great read

November 21, 2005  
Blogger mrdes said...

Thanks, I enjoy your poem...you will fucking spot on when you wrote that "this was a stupid place to die...".

November 25, 2005  
Blogger Cry Freedom said...

Why don't you fight back? I served part time in the SC because of ill health, and wasn't called up for full time.
During one training session, there was a bastard section leader who went overboard with his sadistic demands. I yelled at him and he pulled me up to see the commanding officer. No good. I yelled at the OC so hard, and threatened him with legal action, they backed off and just let me brood in peace. The bastard sction leader never tried his style when I was around, ever again.

December 01, 2005  
Blogger Gilbert Koh said...

You must ask Chiang ...

December 01, 2005  

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