I never would of hitch hiked to Savannah from Ft. Gordon, Georgia
without Walter ‘Doc’ Burns, older guy from Texas took me in care
like a 19 year old baldy sour babe-o-link under his gruff I-don’t know
what he saw in me wing so

I never would of rented that motor scooter we rode all around on past
the primeval Spanish moss draped low land landscape in the chill November
sky who would of thought the South could be so cold so early I got a horrible
cold from hitching through that scary red clay alien topography and clinging
to the back of the way too top heavy scooter.

I never would of remembered how we got back to the Fort where the furnace
in the barrack was busted or just not properly stoked and shaken down and
we often woke to find ice frozen on the floor we’d mopped the night before
and got up to march through the muddy puddles and sit all afternoon and even-
ing in our wet combat boots and then march back in ranks through and around
the swampy ruts to sleep again another night in the cold so bad those barracks
there was finally a riot with guys swinging from the pipes until they tore down
and throwing mattresses out the windows which I sparked by throwing down my hat
after the Captain stood in front of the whole training battalion and lied to us
that we really had heat when we didn’t

So I nevah woulda got fucking pneumonia from all this and too many Winston
cigarettes I never should have been a smoking but they were 10 cents a pack
at the P.X. and I never would have ended up laid up at the base hospital with
a temperature of 105 degrees being woken up at 6 AM for cold showers to bring
down my fever but thank God they had antibiotics or I never would of survived

To get knocked out of training cycle by the week in the hospital and then spend
months as a holdover living in tents living in with the other poor souls who were
waiting for whatever strange fate the Army bureaucracy couldn’t figure out what
to do with them since they were so foolish as to put in for jump school or Officer
Candidate School or like me just get sick

And indeed we never would have been out at all hours of the day and night to stoke
the barrack furnaces or pull K.P. for the O.C.S. bastards or as happened to me get
picked up by the crazy general’s salute patrol and made to write an essay
on the importance of saluting for not seeing the general’s one star flag on his rushing
jeep as I tottered across the P.X. parking lot carrying the Christmas presents I bought
in both hands incredibly after 26 plus straight hours K.P. (Oh, it mad them so mad I was
such a mess)

but I nevah woulda been sent to Okinawa instead of Vietnam if it all hadn’t happened.


James Van Looy has been a fixture in Boston’s poetry venues since the 1970s. He is a member of Cosmic Spelunker Theater and has run poetry workshops for Boston area homeless people at Pine Street Inn and St. Francis House since 1992. Van Looy leads the Labyrinth Creative Movement Workshop, which his Labyrinth titled poems are based on. His work appears weekly in Oddball Magazine.