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A Return to Fire Watch Duty, Autumn 1971

Charles Orloski: A skinny Army recruit from a small Pennsylvania town, 19-years old, not college material, an only child, unused to short hair, making bed, fending for one self, my draft number 22, the party over.

A skinny Army recruit
from a small Pennsylvania town,
19-years old, not college material,
an only child, unused to short hair,
making bed, fending for one self,
my draft number 22, the party over.
A flight from New Orleans to Fort Polk, LA,
Drill Sergeant Stege called us “fresh meat.”
You may have met my organic brand before?
More than once, posted cold cut poetry on net,
and for several years,
I considered fate of violence prone nations,
fate of Trayvon Martin, a dark hood down.
Tonight, I winced while watching CNN
report about another murder at Fort Hood, Texas.
Later, deposed journalist Piers Morgan blamed guns,
and off-camera, questions tucked away in body bag.


Maybe someone who I did
Advanced Infantry Training (A.I.T.) with,
North Fort, 1971, will remember me?
Rumor is David Berkowitz, (Son of Sam),
a mailman, served with us, did push-ups, & K.P.
in preparation to confront his howling voices,
dogs of war on Korean peninsula.
Never met David,
and every night, lights out in upstairs barrack,
recruits wrote love letters, some masturbated
despite reported doses of saltpeter in coffee,
and fresh meat were assigned to Fire Watch duty,
hour to hour, until Louisiana hot sun rise, reveille,
first bugle call.

Always a light sleeper, early riser,
I did not mind doing Fire Watch Duty.
One morning, maybe 1:00 A.M.,
a Houston \native, in bunk beside me
approached, said,
“it's time to (expletive) get up, Yankee boy,
get ass moving, make sure boots shined,
at HQ!”
My hour on duty passed quietly,
no trouble, no sulfur smell, just snoring.
Upon return to bunk,
I felt sorry for the short guy next in-line,
he arrived just day before,
word was he came from Fort Leonard Wood, MO,
I did not even know his name.

Nudged him several times, a Rip Van Winkle,
ten minutes must have passed before he stirred,
donned O.D. Green fatigues,
slowly prepared for Fire Watch duty.
I worried about his being late,
become candidate for punishment, extra-duty.
We talked, welcomed him to “Fort Puke.”
I inquired where he came from,
he indicated “Fort Leonard Wood.”
What brought you to this hell hole? I asked.
Forehead wrinkled, stooped to tie boots,
he said, “I lit a fire in barracks, got caught,
they tossed me into the Brig, got recycled,
have to finish Basic Training here...,
or else I'm in deep shit.”
Until wake-up, I considered flame throwers
in the land of the water buffalo –
time passed quickly, I followed arsonist footsteps.

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Yesterday, April 2, 2014,
another tragedy at Fort Hood, Texas.
Three murdered, sixteen wounded.
I no longer do Fire Watch duty
for the sleeping US Army
and violent Command.
I trust family apartment fire alarm batteries
shall work when called upon.
Son of Sam is 61-years-old, an occult retiree,
in jail, a Born Again Christian,
we might have sat together,
discussed Sharon Tate around bivouac camp fire,
Fort Polk's Kisatchie Forest.
A darkness descends upon military bases
across globe, my fatigues do not fit anymore,
the government stealthily keeps watch out for me,
they start fires, hobnob with high & mighty,
prosper, appear to be always in the right.

Autumn 1971, I witnessed how the army arrested,
rehabilitated (?), found new home for a young arsonist.
Today, those trained to fire upon Islamic villagers
are paraded around as heroes at Super Bowls.
Alas, another Fort Hood killer under arrest,
an aberration according to Ivy league psychologists,
Ivan Lopez shall be watched closely, studied.
Media, whoever they really are,
will soon return to Malaysian plane search,
underwater this time,
run more anniversary photos of OBL's corpse –
Ivan Lopez never got to “be all that he could be”
in service of an just & avaricious Cause...,
or did he?

Charles Orloski