The Verdict Poem by Terry O'Leary
Well, GI Jack is welcome back, he left his legs in 'Nam.
He wakes at night in sweat and fright, then drinks another dram.
He doesn't know quite where to go, so seeks his uncle, Sam.
One can't ignore - his ma was poor, and life was sometimes cruel,
yet Jack was brave and well behaved and surely no one's fool
so joined the ranks that man the tanks, as soon as he left school
He learned to kill our foes at will (ordained a sacred rite) ,
and packed his bag and wrapped his flag and went away to fight.
And yes, the tide was on our side (for, clearly, might makes right)
Through tangled days in jungles' maze, he sought the enemy
behind the trees where, ill at ease, he fought the Yellow sea -
Upon the waves of sunken graves he sailed a killing Spree
The napalm dropped and cooked the crops, burnt huts along the way
and tanks, with ease, mowed down the trees and villages of clay.
Yes, turret guns were loads of fun with roaring roundelays
While on the hunt with other grunts, he burned some babes alive
and wondered why frail things must die, while evil's phantoms thrive -
With booby traps (sticks dipped in crap) ... yes, Charlie fought unfair.
He hid in holes like snakes and voles and snuck up everywhere
and like a mite beneath the night, caught Jackie unaware
At battle's end, Jack sought his friends - their souls were washed away
and only he and destiny were left in disarray -
With bed and pan, just half a man, the man of yesterday
When Jackie woke, beyond the smoke, his frame no longer whole,
he found instead a medalled thread, some wraps to hide the hole,
and realized another prize: a chair on wheels to roll
Across his chest (you've surely guessed) his medals shone, arrayed.
His head felt light, as well it might, at Victory Day Parade
for when he rolled, while others strolled, his boots no longer weighed
Well, Jack stayed home (no roads to Rome) to start his life anew
receiving dole (that took its toll) which fell in Sam's purview,
but soon enough, when times got tough, his uncle, Sam, withdrew
To walk the streets with fine elites (or someone else who begs)
or find a job (or even rob) requires both your legs,
and those that don't and those that won't are those we call the dregs
For getting by he tried to ply and mine his medals' worth -
A tinny cup, a hungry pup near loamy pits of earth,
and best of all, per protocol, beneath a bridge, a berth
He clutched a sign 'A dime to dine? ', if anybody cared,
but soon he found, as time unwound, that victors seldom shared.
And Jackie's pride was slowly fried by vacant eyes that stared
He took to drink to break the link with thoughts of what he'd done,
though threads of doubt began to flout the yarns Big Brother spun
of freedom's ring and other things like what it was we'd won
He told the breeze his vague unease; his words infused the air
and like the fogs above the bogs, soon floated through the square
where people sat at tea to chat, and thought 'How could he dare'
But freedom's price is never nice: like storms before the flood
the Daily Rag was on a jag, was looking out for blood,
deemed Jackie's thoughts untamed and fraught, then dragged him through the mud
By snooping clues, they plucked his views like grapes upon the vine.
Big Brother came, blamed Jackie's name for thinking out of line,
shut Jack away from light of day while letting freedom shine
The Junta Brass, with eyes of glass, were dressed in fine array
to hear the words (though slightly slurred) the witness gasped to say,
while Justice snored (the water board awash with Perrier)
Well, Jack was charged with laws enlarged in secret dossiers
within the guise of spreading lies and leading thoughts astray -
The Jury's out... the rabble shout 'well someone's gotta pay'
The Judge (who fears the mind’s frontiers) , he turned his head to yawn
while making haste through courtroom waste, though slightly pale and wan -
The voodoo Lune withdrew as soon as Night condemned the Dawn
While in his cell, the verdict fell - the sighs of Silence, rife
While in his cell, the verdict fell - the Reaper played a fife
While in his cell, the verdict fell - the price was Jackie's life
While censor’s cooks are roasting books (and truth) on stakes ablaze,
well, Jackie's head (though chopped and shed) still thinks about the praise
for deeds once done in victories won when cruising in a craze,
and then again about the sin of thinking, nowadays,
where, absently, humanity is served in urns on trays -
And, reconciled, it simply smiles at fortune's funny ways
A mind was caught while thinking thoughts neath Sammy’s prying gaze
and forced to stop by concept cops, else join the castaways.
For now it's law to hold in awe the brave new world's malaise
and dance like mimes to rigid rhymes (which no one disobeys)
and celebrate with white-washed pate, adorned with dead bouquets -
With freedom’s death, time holds its breath, and waits for better days...
Terry O'Leary's Other Poems
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