The Final Battle

I had a very pleasant surprise during the winter session of the Osher Lifetme Learning Institute at UConn in Waterbury. I was taking Sandra Ebner’s “Sculpting Poems” course. I had given her a number of poems to read and correct as did the other members of the class. Sandy was at some gathering in a restaurant and she was correcting the poems at the bar. While she was reading my poem “The Final Battle” about a platoon of soldiers abandoned by their officers and surrounded by the enemy and their deaths, she noticed a man looking over her shoulder. They introduced each other and he said that he was a Vietnam vet. He asked to read the poem and Sandy told me that he began crying. He excused himself and went outside to have a cigarette. When he returned, Sandy said that you could tell that he had been crying. Hearing about this reaction to one of my poems was better than receiving an A++ as a grade.

Here is the poem “The Final Battle”

The Final Battle

In a far off land,
Where darkness engulfed a firebase―
Abandoned by brass
Resting comfortably behind the lines―
Draftees hugged the mud and grass
Afraid and waiting
For death’s final embrace.
They looked at one another
And began to snake toward
A protective hillside outcropping:
Each new warrior showing his fear
Of a sudden
slashing shot in the ass.
The darkness and silence―
Interrupted sporadically
By gunfire from hunted and hunter
And cries in the jungle night―
Encircled and confused the Americans
While protecting the enemy
As they approached their prey.

The radio man desperately
Attempted to establish contact
With someone
… anyone.

No radio contact was received.
A grenade burst a few yards away
Shattering the silence and
Hurling body parts in the air.
The platoon leader responded
By discharging his machine gun
And exhausting his ammo.
Two minutes later, a shell struck the firebase
killing three men
and destroying the remaining ammo.`

The surviving members of the platoon,
Isolated and adrift,
Waited for the final battle.
Dark figures silently emerged from the reeds
And rushed the hill for the final fight that ended
In a face-to-face,
Hand-to-hand confrontation
Sending the throwaway men of the lost platoon
To their deaths …

To be remembered only by their names
Chiseled on stones
In a far off land.

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