Robin Amy Bass


The night is innocent enough.
The afternoon has gone.
I ask if I can read my poem –
I promise it’s not long.
I’ve made your favorite supper dish;
A decent bribe for you.
And so we reach a compromise.
I’ll talk while you will chew

You’re hungry – so I say, “Please eat.
That’s all you have to do.”
I clear my throat and take the stage.
I love to read to you.
I pick a page. Here is my poem.
It’s practically brand new.

You nod and take a bite of rice;
A captive audience.
My dinner manages to entice,
And so as I commence,
Inside I sneak a little smile
I guess that I can sense
That somehow I have crossed a line
To your side of the fence .

You listen, nod and smile again
And so I strike a pose.
If you don’t mind I’ll read one more,
but this I would call prose.
It’s funny – not like ha ha…
More in a scary way
But I remember small details
Liked it was yesterday.
There was a gun – a robbery –
and all of it is true.
I guess it all turned out OK
‘Cause here I am with you!
I wrote it as an answer, see?
On how we deal with death
I see you nod “Get on with it.”
And so I take a breath

I watch you, as you straighten up.
The coffee I suppose,
Or maybe it’s the story’s plot.
I hope my story flows
My subject is not boring, see
It has to do with crime…
The clock is ticking on the wall
We’re losing track of time

I never thought I would be robbed.
To me it’s still surreal.
That someone came in with a gun
And plans that they would steal
The money that was in the store.
I just could not conceive
That we had put ourselves at risk.
Back then I was naïve.
So when two guys came into the shop
I just could not accept
That anyone would mean us harm.
I stood there circumspect.

Now they had cased the place that day…
My manager had tried
To warn me of impending doom
But I just closed my eyes.

I brushed off all her warning signs
“They don’t look strange to me.
I think you’ve led a sheltered life
You scare too easily.

Just ‘cause they sport a few dread locks
Don’t treat them differently.”
“We’ll each help one”, I said to Sue.
I plain refused to see
The bloodshot eyes and nervous twitch.
Sue didn’t say a thing.
“They’re just musicians” I confirmed.
“I bet that one can sing…”
I pointed to a taller one
Who held a guitar case.
And when I went to do my job
A gun was in my face.
The tall one moved me to the rear.
The short one had my friend.
I just did what the Tall One said.
I waited for the end.

So I begin my tale of truth.
And how I faced a gun.
I brag about my fearlessness,
And just as I am done,

I see this look come on your face.
I know I’ve hit a nerve.
I know I tried to make you laugh.
Instead I’ve thrown a curve.

For you have traveled back in time.
I feel my heart strings tug.
The fork is down beside your plate.
“Here’s what we do with thugs.”

Before I can begin to redirect
I see we’re back in Nam.
‘Cause there’s that look you always get.
You voice sounds awfully calm
And you begin a story
I think you’ve told before.
But something tells me, hush you fool,
This time you will hear more.

A Mission – it is Special Op’s,
The type that’s classified.

I know that most of what I hear
Will have to be disguised.
But you begin just like you did
You talk about your men.
A true Marine, you never flinch
And you’ll go back again
To make sure you do what you should.
You’ll go and get your brothers.
And try and get them home to see
Theirs wives and kids and mothers.

You talk of units and platoons.
You answer when I ask
“Just what exactly was your job?”
Your face becomes a mask.

“My job was just like others there.
The enemy was holding
A group of Air Force guys inside their lines
And Charlie wasn’t folding.

And so they sent in our Marines
To steal behind their lines,
To free the prisoners Charlie had
And cut the ties that bind.

Of course this had been organized
Our strategies precise
We had to orchestrate it all
Or we’re turned into rice”
With every mission that we run
There comes the risk of dying
And yes of course we all were scared
Who says they’re not is lying

Now I was not a Newbie, see?
I’d met the enemy.
But still I was not prepared upstairs
For what I was to see

The Air Force guys were all tied up.
Been forced to separate.
I watched them tortured endlessly,
While Charlie played with fate.”
We knew we had to all work fast
Or it would be too late.

And though I knew to be precise
In truth, I was propelled
A ball of fury – but well contained
To bring them back from hell.

The mission was to bring them back
Alive and in one piece.
Because Charlie held them prisoners, see?
And they would not release.
Our guys… well not while they’re alive
That’s not what they’re about
And we’re not gonna let them die
We’re gonna get them out

‘Cause Charlie plays by his own rules.
It’s not the Geneva Convention.
And so our Recon boys showed up
And assessed the insurrection.

The Elephant Grass was thick and high
And that was good you see.
‘Cause no one saw as we approached.
They thought they were home free.

Our unit had been trained for this.
We knew what steps to take
And let me tell you, we stepped light.
Could not afford mistakes.
To capture some one is the goal
To incapacitate.
But, Charlie took it further, see?
And I could not be late.

Now if there’s one thing I can’t stand,
It’s a bully who is smug
And that was what I came upon.
A nasty common thug.

I counted as he flicked his wrist.
He had a rhythm to it.
He held the gun in his right hand.
He’d use it and I knew it.
But first he had to taunt his prize
A soldier, one of ours’

I watched as my guy’s face went blank
It seems like it was hours.

I looked up at the darkened sky
And started to repeat
A wordless prayer, to Higher Up
Just give me 10 more feet.
If I could get a closer stand
If I could count the beat
I knew that he would use that gun
And that would mean defeat
The mission was to get them back
In one piece and alive
These Air Force men had been shot down
And managed to survive.

I don’t know how it came to be
My prayers were answered back.
I came in range and grabbed the gun
And took our Pilot back.

I counted as Charlie flicked his wrist
And snapped his wrist in half.
And in that second it all changed
A silence from that laugh.

The smirk was gone from off his face
Replaced by a surprise.
And I thought, ‘Good, how does it feel?’
But I could recognize
The look that darkened Charlie’s face
The fear that filled his eyes.

I’d seen punks like this way back when
I roamed the halls in school.
They’re always brave until they’re caught
They are cowards and they are cruel.
And when they age, it just gets worse
They take and they abuse
And every chance I help them see
What it feels like to lose.
The more I see the more I’m sure
It’s just a damned disgrace
And every time I get the chance
I put them in their place
Cause Bullies have no respect for life
They thrive on causing pain
And mindless torture just for kicks
It just drives me insane

I saw the empty haunted look
That crossed my Pilots eyes
I knew that to bring him back
That Charlie had to die

The choppers came to take us back
They hovered over ground
But just before my guy got inside
I yelled “turn him around”

My men obliged. And made him look
‘Cause it was understood
I fired once – The Thug was gone.

Got rid of him for good.

“He will not hurt you any more…
He’s gone, so just erase”
And then we lifted off the ground
Our planes torched the place.

Now in the chopper Medics worked.
But my guy was far from home.
I sat down and I looked at him
“Hey Buddy, I’m T Bone.”

I think I met you way back when.
I think I know your mother.
He looked at me… and said My Mom?
I said “Now listen, brother
“When you go home – I’m asking you
To do this when you go
Remember when you see your Mom
That T-Bone says hello.”

Of course, I’d never met his mom,
That’s something I just said
But he looked up and smiled at me,
As if he’d just been fed.
The vacant look began to ebb,
Replaced by inner calm.
The light came back – he said “OK!”
And he was out of NAM.

At least his mind came back a bit
He seemed to want to live
And me – I think I helped him out
Gave what I had to give.

I came to terms with what I did.
I know that it was right.
And though I lose sleep now and then,
My pilot sleeps at night.

And thugs who taunt and think they’re God
And kill and never cry…
Well one is sleeping in the ground.
I hope that he knows why.

‘Cause sometimes the way you live your life
Effects how you will die,
The thugs and bullies; The cowards too,
Should know the reason why.

‘Cause we are all accountable for how
We deal with death.
And sometimes you give up the right
To draw another breath.
I’ve seen enough to know a world
Of arrogance and strife.
And bully is just a different name
For coward in this life.
I’ve seen some things that live in me.
I never will forget
The bullies and the cowards
Who deserve just what they get.

And when I look back on that day
I will accept the blame.
But if I had it over to do,
I’d do it just the same.
See, life is full of learning curves
And things we don’t expect
And bullies never figure out
We all deserve respect.

The night was innocent enough.
That it innocence now gone.
I guess my story’s over now.
But yours is never done.

I think how different we both are
And yet we still connect.
How much you’ve buried underground
What waits to resurrect.
I think sometimes we’re both alike.
A funny pair we two.
I think how lucky that I am
To be here… next to you.

You drum the table with your spoon.
“Hey, dinner sure was great.”
I smile “Looks like we are done.”
Point to your empty plate.

You grin and say, “Your hair looks nice.
Is that the latest fashion?”
I nod, and think, ‘What can I do,
To show you the compassion
And love and trust that you deserve
To help your spirit heal.’
But I just nod and take your dish.
“I’m glad you liked the meal.”

Sometimes you take me by surprise,
And shift my world around
But when I look into your eyes,
I’m back on solid ground

The night is no longer innocent.
I know you know this too.
Still, this is where I feel complete,
When I am here with you.