Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Last flight to the gates of heaven, prose poem by Mike Marcellino

Last flight to the gates of heaven

by Mike Marcellino

Part I  The mission

It all became right clear to me
walkin' the dog to the beach
and back
to the gates of heaven
from mission number three.

i found that liberty, you see
can only be
if you respect other people's
rights.  Otherwise you got
nothin' but monopoly and friction.

i'm walking the dog to the beach,
and back
to the gates of heaven
from mission number three -
sometimes under attack
by dogs runnin' free 'cause their masters don't put 'em on a leach,
even if they have one.  Now i'd like to let my dog Button
run as free as he likes, but then, that wouldn't be liberty
and we'd all end up under attack.

Seems you can only have pure freedom when nobody's around.
If you want to live together without fightin' and wars
we have to all share our liberty.

Button, you see, is a young white Poodle
smart and stubborn as can be.  He doesn't much
mind any of the dogs, 'cause he's on a mission with me, you see.
He's a kind of blood hound without the hound.
Secretly enlisted in the K-9 Corps.
i'm tryin' to keep him sniffing for
ways to peace, so our world can still be.

We're walking to the beach
and back
to the gates of heaven
from mission number three
to meet up with all the critters we see,
maybe make a friend or two.

We can all have liberty to a degree,
and together, i truly believe
we can save their world from
man-made destruction,
if we can just be kind to each other,
from here to eternity
and back,
'stead of killin' each other and our planet.

Headed down through rattlesnake turtle dunes,
things kinda turned the other cheek.
Suddenly ahead i see a whole family
complete two boys and two dogs
on their leaches.

"That's the man you like,"
said one boy to the other.

And, low and behold
the man pulling his dogs on their leashes
letting Button and me
pass through safely;
they were like Moses parting the Red Sea.

We're still walkin' to the beach
and back
to the gates of heaven
from mission number three
when i spy a mighty subtropical
a scary black, silver and grey chain covering the western horizon,
wanting badly to spawn tornadoes.
At this point, we're on the point
and i spy a break in the clouds
maybe a path on our road to glory.
Eyeing the growing storm in some increasing disbelieve;
our luck seemed to have run out -
black-grey funnels tryin' their best
to take Button and me off the planet
to Oz.

Then, starting to think some last thoughts
walkin' the dog back from the beach
through the rattlesnake turtle dunes
it dawned on me,
"What a special dog this is;
he's either got some of that PTSD,
or he's much smarter than me."

The Dylan's lyrics run though my brain -
"Mama, put my guns in the ground
I can't shoot them anymore.
That long black cloud is comin' down
I feel like I'm knockin' on heaven's door"

Thanks, Bob, for those lines from "Knockin' On Heaven's Door,"
i really like that song
from the "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" sound track.
Here's your credit -
Copyright ©1973 by Ram's Horn Music; renewed 2001 by Ram’s Horn Music

Part II  Flashback No. 1

On our final run, Button
and me
i'm back in the wars again
thinkin' Audie Murphy
and To Hell and Back from World War II
now i'm back to tryin' to get back
from Firebase Cleveland.

i had no gun,
hardly ever did 
in the Vietnam War
out in the field, not even a tooth brush
or change for a dollar,
not a bite of food, not a C-Ration can
just notebooks, pens and
thirty-five millimeter cameras
wrapped in plastic,
wading through the rice paddies, sometimes chest deep -
my brothers watching my back.

Part III  Button and me

Trying to keep my cool
there was only one thing to do
right now
if Button and me
are gonna make it through the storm.
Start joggin'
and singin' this old song -

"Up the hill,
down the hill,
Army Rangers.
Up the hill,
down the hill,
All the way."
Over and over. I probably messed up the lines
but it's been a long time
before long a half century.

Then i got to thinkin' we just might
make it through the storm.  I geared back to fast walkin'.

Part IV The night i thought i'd died

These threats in the world
get me flashin' back
to the night i thought i'd died
in the sandy
forested wasteland
on the Cambodian border
at a firebase freshly carved out

Automatic weapons fire
all through the no moon night
shootin' the shit with bare chested GI's
filling bags
for some slim extra protection 
against mortar and rocket attacks.
i'm out there, right there where we're not supposed to be
me, some Army engineers,
and a battery
of big guns,  one five five millimeters
on tracks that looked like tanks.
i got dropped off on the convoy
to the bird colonel and his helicopter.
from my ride on the bird colonel's helicopter.
Letting me out, barely touching down,
that Alabamian, i guess as close as you can get
to my commanding officer, looked at me
without a word, laughing.  i didn't bother to look back.
He wasn't a bad guy.  He just wanted some good photos and stories
out of me
published so he could be a general.

We rolled on to the border
dust almost blinding.
Then right away in some no man's land
the bulldozers scooped up dirt
by the tons
firing hole for the big traveling guns.
"Boom, boom, boom,
blast, blast, blast"
the guns shook and thundered.
(me shooting pictures, taking notes, without ear plugs, close enough to feel the warmth of the steel)
The artillerymen humpin' all day long
unleashing hell out into the triple canopy jungles
where they enemy was supposed to be -
the NVA (the North Vietnamese Army)
and maybe some VC (Viet Cong) guerrillas i suppose
on their way to hit Saigon, and not the bars.
I don't know how many enemy there were out there somewhere,
maybe as many four or five thousand;
it wasn't any use to think about that.

"Who's out on the perimeter?" i asked the smart-assed lieutenant
who shut me out of his APC.
(armored personnel carriers to you folks back home).

"Mercenaries," he said without a grin.
i thought, "Man, what a fix i got myself in."

With dispatch the lieutenant said,
"Start diggin' your hole,"
he said as he went into his APC
probably to start partying before World War Three.
Our guns were silent, even Alpha's Angels
the whole troop had showered, except the reporter,
from canvas bags filled with cold running water
brought in by slicks, Huey D Model gunships,
(They didn't stick around.)
Nothin' like a cold shower to get some relief from the mind sapping heat.

i had little time.  The sun was going down.
Get the size just right.  i had no time to think
of the rectangular, grave sized bunker
to be topped with corrugated steel for a cover.
Be quick. 
At least someone gave me an entrenching tool
or i'd have been buried alive
before the fireworks began
on the night a thought i'd died.  That's another story.

Part V  Gates of heaven

Then, i got to thinkin' we,
Button and me, that is, just might make it 
walkin' the dog to the beach
and back
to the gates of heaven
from mission number three.

So my story to you,
at least the one from today
does have a happy ending.
Button and me, we did make it home.
Back in the day
toward the end
of the ten thousand day war,
all i know, for sure that is 
58,000 and more,
some of America's finest
young men and women
didn't make it back to the world.

These bands of brothers
i always remember.
They boarded the big airplanes
in body bags and boxes
on their last flight of freedom
to the gates of heaven.

Last flight to the gates of heaven by Mike Marcellino copyright 2012