Poetry: The Fire Down Below

The miserable hot last days of summer
back in sixty-four, back at basic, back
before when in green uniform we all wore
black polished brogans, the boots of
airmen basics who were third-class to be
who walked and marched so perfectly in step
to the deep voice and beat of Jody calls
of some long forgotten TI keeping pace,
and cadence with forward; yer left, right,
aeyyepp, heft, leey-eft, sing-it – Basic!

Long ill-fit pants and button starched
shirts and hard desert pith helmets
moving and drilling into hot sticky
sweat dripped-on drill-pad black tar
as rainbows watched and wished
and wondered as we did it with smooth
cool rhythms and rhymes marches
on without red-flag days with a pill of salt
‘smoke ‘em if ya’ got ‘em cigs in socks’
breaks; then drill, drill, drill old rock and roll.

The soft rumble of boots on feet make
the beat of quiet cadence on walk or road,
‘There she was just a-walkin’ down the street’
dress right-dress, road guards out – troops
always marching, walking not talking no-
thinking waiting for me was mo’ kay-pee, not
some “Do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do,”
just hot sweat; sun turning boys to beets
in boxers where scalded butts and balls felt
the pain of the bloody red crotch-rot grow.

Every step became a new miserable pain,
working KP was to waddle legs spread,
just do and do well, never complain,
Save me sergeant from this misery below
down south will never again be all the same,
to march and to walk, maybe to never again go.
Cookie, gimme some nice corn starch, a powder
to bring calm love and peace of thee unto me,
to my family jays, my centering soul,
ending for another day, the fire down below.

Back in the Day

Look both ways, but looking back may be best.
Mind the gaps and smoke ’em if ya got ’em.

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