In honor of Memorial Day I'm posting Honor And Glory. I wrote this back in 1974, a year after I finished my military service. Being an amateur military historian and appreciating the wonderful fantasies and myths of books like The Lord of the Rings, I took a stab at writing a poem depicting combat. It only took me about forty-five minutes to finish the first draft, but, it took many more years to tune it up with rewrites. I don't use the common terminology for units and ranks, but delve into fantasy to find generic terms. The main thing isn't the names but the experience of combat. After spending most of my teen age years, and after, reading histories of the American Civil War, I wanted to express something like that feel to this poem. And maybe find a universality that deals with an historical experience so common so as to transcend any particular place and time.
Honor And Glory
Projectiles from large enemy thunder tubes
Fly overhead seeking some damage to do
Our War Group enters the camp left to us
With once bright uniforms covered with dust
The mounts are nervous, though protected by a rise
Shielded from the fire, as our columns arrive
Leadmen of Troups hear from Headmen of Bands
“There’s no falling out, the column here stands.”
Tired men fall from our march in the sun
Comrades support them, there’s no place to run
Leadmen tell Pack Foremen, “Inspect Warlings through.”
File Overlings follow to ensure hearts stay true
Warm water is taken from bottles half full
While we all listen to the thunder tube duel
The longer the waiting, the tenser the nerves
Feeling, on today’s action, the conflict may turn
Our Chiefman is here, to help form our line
Preparing the Bandline, he say’s we’ll do fine
We’re all made ready, with skirmishers ahead
The thought in our minds, who’ll live or be dead?
The Theyn of the War Group arrives with his staff
We’re put to attention to hear what he say’s
“Friends, Patriots, be proud on this morning,
Our freedom now lies in your honor and glory.”
“We fight to protect our families and homes.
This is our duty, the only way shown.
Our enemies enslave us, won’t let us be.
Fight for your freedom and destiny.”
Checking our arms, fire rods are readied
With long blades attached to make them more deadly
Our lines are dressed as the thunder tubes stop
Then we hear, along the rise, the words, “Over the top.”
Our line surges forward, scrambling over the rise
Each of us praying to somehow just stay alive
How many more races across torn up ground
How many more lifetimes to waste, as this now
Large thunder tubes take their toll once again
Churning up ground, and brave frightened men
Struggling along, covered with dirt and sand
Praying not to step where projectiles might land
My mind stops, suspended, as the inferno is seen
Trapped in this unreal, nightmare of a dream
What have we done? What was our crime?
Forced to pray for survival one more last time
Our foot band’s Headman, with banner unfurled
Like a man possessed in a alien world
Exhorting, cajoling, driving us all along
“To stop is dishonor, move forward, be strong.”
My mind clouds, past fights merge into one
All I know to live, is keep moving, and run
Looking back I see we’re far less than before
As projectile bursts engulf us once more
Littered around are broken mounts and men
I know I could never do this again
We near the trenches where our enemies lie
Their Headmen yelling, while their wounded cry
Our thinned line closes the space in-between
The enemies’ eyes are scared and mean
Their fire rod flashes quicken our pace
All locked together in this deadly long race
The banner held in our Headman’s strong hands
He plants in the trench, where others soon land
Our foot band enters, fighting eye to eye
The foe’s soon evicted, while many there die
The Headman screams, to gather a pursuit
We’re all brought together to see the fight through
One frightened man panics, crumbling to his knees
The rest start off, as the enemy flees
Then, a projectile burst knocks me to the ground
My mind’s filled with haze, motionless, but sound
Trapped in my body, as others pass by
I’m aware of life, and afraid to die
I see, in my haze, the Headman at bay
Prodding the straggler to get on his way
Yelling, exhorting, the same old story
“Defend your country, for honor, and glory.”
With thunder tube bursts again overhead
I feel, before long, that I’ll soon be dead
The scene with the Headman’s charge continues
Till a burst from a tube makes dust of their sinew
The smoke soon clears, only crumpled bodies remain
Uniforms are shredded, the torn banner hangs
Battle sounds relent, to stillness and calm
All the dust settles, and the conflict is gone
Then after a time the War Theyn appears
Seeing the banner brings him close to tears
Telling an aide of the Headman’s brave run
“Oh, to what cost such bravery is done.”
He gets two stretcher bearers to stop
To put the Headman’s remains there on top
Placing the banner, over the body, once brave
They carry it back to a fine hero’s grave
Unknown to them, though well I could see
The bodies having fallen so close to me
Taken was the straggler, in mistaken hurry
To fill in for the hero’s honor and glory
Jack T. Leyton
Years ago, I happened to read this poem to the father of a friend of mine who was in the U.S. 29th Infantry Division that landed on Omaha Beach, Normandy on D-Day, 1944. He just kind of gave a look like a thousand yard stare and softly said, "Yeah, that's about it." Enough said. God bless and keep all our heroes, past, present and future.
War Group = Division = 10,000 (+/-)
Bandline = Brigade = 3-5,000
Band = Battalion = 500-1,000
Troup = Company = 100-200
Pack = Platoon = 30-45
File = Squad = 8-15
Warling = Soldier from anywhere at anytime
Enough said. God bless all our heroes, past, present and future.
Jax Blog #13
This next poem I wrote back in 2007. Around that time I was putting my book of poetry together at a coffee
shop near where I lived, while I was in between employment. I was spending long days compiling what I had
and I found myself sometimes finishing scraps of partial poems from sometimes years before. "Jill" was one of those partial poems. Around that time I had met a girl who worked at the coffee house named Jill and it got my imagination moving enough to finish this poem. I mean, I'm Jack, shouldn't there be a Jill... and a hill?
As for the date 12/29/1972 at 06:00 am, PST. At the time I wrote the poem I was heavily into Astrology, and so with hard study and geometric logic and astro plotting of all the planets, and... and with a lot of help from an online Astrology site, I came to the conclusion that a person born on that day, at that time was my perfect match. A young 48 year old, now. Oh well. As luck would have it, I've never been able to meet anyone with those dates and times.
I'm still waiting....
Someday I'll find my Jill
Every Jack should have one
With all the standard thrills
Knows how to love and have fun
Is there a proper way?
Not some run of the mill
If classifieds would say
Right here, an awesome Jill
Who am I to complain?
Sure, some great catch I am
She might just think the same
Yep... better off with a Sam
An astrologer told me, "Son,
I've got the perfect girl.
Born, West Coast, December 29, 1972
... at 06:00 am."
I said, "Are you for real?"
I have such love to share
With passions full... and still
She's got to be somewhere?
That loving elusive Jill
Jack T. Leyton
Yep... I'm still waiting....
I don't think I'll be holding my breath.
Stay Safe and Well
This poem is one of my few attempts at dry humor.
I was attempting to give it a slight Monty Python style.
I hope I succeeded, but that judgement is up to you.
JUDGEMENT DAY WILL BE FRIDAY
This establishment will be open half day only.
All employees wishing time off are asked to submit in writing
any requests no later than two days prior.
If possible an alternate to cover your position should be designated.
Pay will be straight time with the usual O/T bonus.
Of the three per cent cost of living differential.
All time off will be taken from vacation time, if available.
Otherwise, it will be counted as a non-pay day.
Paychecks, usually available at the end of shift on Friday,
due to a glitch in the computer system, will be mailed out instead.
We are confident in the assurances of the Post Office,
that service will continue in its normal efficient manner
Since it is expected to be a light volume day,
the dress code will be relaxed. All wishing to bring
in a pot-luck lunch are heartily encouraged. .
IN CASE OF EMERGENCIES
Questions and suggestions may be left on the executive voice mail.
Your input is important to us.
A response may be made in an appropriate and timely fashion.
If there is need for personal consultation, however
Management will Not be available.
Good Luck and Best Wishes.
Thank You for your continued support.
Jack T. Leyton
Lately, we seem to be having a few of these ourselves.
I hope we continue to get thru them in a successful manner.
Good Luck and Best Wishes
Thank you for your continued support.
And Now He's Gone was written a short time after the death of my father. He died on Valentines Day on the weekend of my son's first birthday. It was a time of mixed emotion for my whole family. My Dad had been in the hospital for a week beforehand, in and out of a coma. All our relatives visited him during that time knowing it was "Good-bye." Still full of emotion, I wrote this poem.
And Now He's Gone
I feel the shadows in this house
There was once a presence here
It is, and may remain a permanent scent
For over thirty years my father lived here
And now he's gone
His clothes in the dresser folded just so
My Mother placed neatly, in loving expectation
I recall occasions, weekends, and visitations
Photos on the wall with his grand style
And now he's gone
Not all the crying, praying, and shouting
Cursing, wailing, or bawling can change a thing
The scent is there from years of wear
His spirit lies in the memories of our lives
And now he's gone
In the little hours, when the creaking walls are heard
And the half dreaming beckons to might have beens
The wishing dies away in tears of parting
Loves heavy heart remembers sorrows and joy
And now he's gone
Jack T. Leyton
The house was where my brothers and I were raised and was full of the spirits of our family. It was sold after our Mother's passing, but I still drive by sometimes. As Thomas Wolfe said, "You can't go home again." As in most families, the memories stay rich and compelling. And now they're gone.
The poem Air Seas was written at a positive time in my life when I had the feeling that all was well for a positive future and to just go ahead and challenge it. Of course the future never stays that way for long. But it's always important to ride that crest as long as we can and remember what we're capable of and what we can handle.
Sails set for the clouds
And places filled with stars
Flying high on the winds
That bring wonders from afar
Air seas my eyes see
Through the currents of the sky
Time is won to be done
And I'm glad that I'm alive
All's bright for the moment
On my new craft soaring high
Till time brings the morrow
And the moment I shall die
Soaring high through the clouds
As my new life is taken in hand
From it's dark and dismal depths
To the place I'll make my stand
Free flight in cool air
As I try my sails and wings
Flight now I've mastered
I have learned so many things
Far from my beginnings
Remembered distant past
My sails are unfurled
Strong tempered, made to last
Off then to adventures
I've not dreamed since long before
Time now to live them
To fill each moment more and more
Jack T. Leyton
May all our adventures be positive and caring.
And may these trying times now just serve to
temper our wings and sails for a brighter future.