Sunday, November 29, 2020

21, redux

21. Why 21? Because I spent my 21 up on a dark, rain-soaked hill. No cake, no candles, but still lots of fireworks. Though it was not war, just an exercise, still it was tough luck spending your day like that.

This is a major revision of an earlier poem.

photo by pixzito at pixabay

21, redux

Orion was looking down at us
crouching on this dark hill
as a rain soaked wind
brushed leaves and weeds
we, troopers watched in awe
red tracers probing targets
as the tank guns opened up
flinched & jerked in a frenzied dance
in the brief light of muzzle flashes
pouring 75mm shells into the butte
to explode in showers of mud,
a frosted plate of dark sky
now palely illuminated
as white flares arced
in graceful parabolas
the trees and ridges
frozen in hues of black and green
we clutched our weapons,
the metal of the M16
cold on tired skin
we checked our gear again
magazines knife bullets
a wait for orders
no prep talk
no hands on heart
just an exhale of relief
the crunch of boots on wet gravel
as we trudged down the hill
our shadows gliding on trees
spooked by illum rounds.

27th November 1989
revised 15/02/2006
revised 02/07/2019

U2 - New Year's Day

Β© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2020

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Anonymous Ron. Lavalette said...

Awesome (re)capture. Salute.

29 November, 2020 21:58  
Blogger colleen said...

Love how the fireworks turned the imagination to a war scene. Anything can happen.

29 November, 2020 22:18  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

Thanks, Ron! πŸ˜€

29 November, 2020 22:21  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

Colleen, it was a military exercise, but it was pretty realistic. πŸ˜€
thank you!

29 November, 2020 22:25  
Blogger C. Sandlin said...

The contrast in this between the starlight and the graceful arcs of light and the grounded exhaustion of mud and rote action highlights each really well. I find myself curious about how your revising of it over time & whether that's something you do with many of your poems.

30 November, 2020 00:13  
Blogger Hazel said...

I imagine an M16 could get heavier the longer you clutch it. Reminds me of a sham battle some of my mates did in high school. So good to read something poetic out of firearms.

30 November, 2020 01:49  
Blogger indybev said...

Happy it was only an exercise, but i would imagine each trooper came away with a new appreciation for those who expeienced actual war. Thanks for sharing.

30 November, 2020 02:17  
Blogger Magaly Guerrero said...

I can so relate to this one! I spent my 21st doing Mk 19 grenade launcher exercises--taking them apart, putting them back together, figuring out what might break first... I got to go back to the barracks after training, passed out in my uniform, and totally missed the surprised party some of my friends put together for me. Still, it's one of the birthdays I will always remember.

30 November, 2020 03:07  
Blogger Helen said...

Exercise or not ... simulation or real ... war is hell.

30 November, 2020 06:22  
Blogger Rommy said...

The details here are sharp. That's a really intense way to spend your 21rst birthday. In the US, that's the age we're allowed to drink (though legal adulthood comes 3 years earlier at 18). 21 is still very young for the weight of some responsibilities, but thank goodness for the ones that handle them well.

30 November, 2020 06:41  
Blogger Gillena Cox said...

This was intense. Happy Sunday Cheong Lee san


30 November, 2020 06:42  
Blogger Old Egg said...

Having lived in Britain as a youngster during WW2 I was amazed that to celebrate peace, a firework display was put on in our village, which was not exactly a comfort having been bombed for the previous five years!

30 November, 2020 08:54  
Blogger Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Vividly recreated! So interesting – we idealistic poets have often had such adventurous lives if one looks a bit deeper.

30 November, 2020 10:39  
Blogger dsnake1 said...


thank you!
As a general rule, i try to leave most of the poems alone, and not to revise them after publication (and some before publishing). If i think that a poem can be improved, give the reader a better experience, i may attempt a revision.
This poem was written in 1989, revised slightly in 2006, and majorly revised last year. Thus the 'redux' in the title. The reason i revised it was i thought the two earlier versions were rife with cliches. the latest version i feel is more compact, and is able to bring out the sound and fury more forwardly. πŸ˜ƒ


thank you!
it does! and don't forget the other gear we are carrying, the helmet, ammo, bayonet, water...
i have other poems with firearms. πŸ˜€


it is! we are praying that we need not go to a war.

30 November, 2020 17:13  
Blogger dsnake1 said...


Eww, you too?
Come to think of it, yes, it was a really unforgettable birthday. and there's always time later for a few bottles of beer. 😁


yes, it is. 😟


At 18 here, all able-bodied males goes into the armed forces for a couple of years, or more. yes, thank goodness for the ones that handle them well.

30 November, 2020 17:45  
Blogger dsnake1 said...


thank you! πŸ˜€


it's ironic, isn't it? πŸ™„


i guess most of the poets have some adventurous lives in their journeys. πŸ˜€

30 November, 2020 18:05  
Blogger rallentanda said...

Oh well you survived,,, and now you can write poetry about it...better still you are retired and should spoil yourself rotten

01 December, 2020 21:08  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

yeah, guess i earned it!
thank you, Rall!

01 December, 2020 21:39  

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