Robin Amy Bass

RAYMOND A.

IWVPA Double Tap Award for War Poetry: February 11, 2005
Awarded: February 11, 2005
Rain is pouring from the sky
And I just can’t sleep
I have leaned to write it down
If I want to keep
All the things I’ve locked away
When it come to you
Wonder if you’re wide awake
Or are you sleeping through.

Thunders clouds collide above
Lightning hits the sky
You have lived through so much pain
Can you tell me why?
You must keep it locked inside
Far away from me
Till the flood gates over flow
With your misery

You attempt to keep it in
Carry it in sleep
You say you learned early on
Look before you leap.

Kitchen table’s squeaky clean.
Pilot light is on.
You sit down and look at me.
All at once you’re gone.

You light up a cigarette,
And you shake your head.
“I’m not leaving anyone.
Leave someone for dead?”

Helicopters in the dawn
Your eyes float away
You sit down and say his name
“They called him Raymond A.”

We were in the jungle brush.
Raymond A was hurt.
All the guys said he won’t last.
“Leave him in the dirt”

But I couldn’t leave him there.
Leave him just to die.
It was raining off and on.
“Raymond A., don’t cry.”

Do not say a single thing.
I will get you out.
Someday you will tell your kids,
What this was about.

Raymond A was bleeding bad
All I had was gauze.
And a little crack and freeze
Now it gives me pause.

Guys, came by.
Saluted me.
Sir you have to go.
How could I just leave him there?

Sometimes you just know
What your mission’s all about.
What you have to do.
I still had my radio.

I took it and threw
So it landed far away from the enemy.
If they tried to pick us up
On that frequency,

They would not detect us there
Huddled in the night.
Raymond A and this Marine.
This is how you fight.

“Wilson comma Raymond A.”
He said, when I asked.
‘Raymond A’ is all I heard.
All my fear I masked.

Raymond A., I know you hurt,
But you’re not alone.
I am gonna help you now
I will get you home.

I will get you home real soon
Home and in one piece
Hold on to this thing called life.
Hold on to your lease.

Raymond had his radio –
I saw there were two
He was just an army dude.
Didn’t have a clue
Who I was – a soldier too
But he called me SIR
Handed me his radio.
“Raymond A. “don’t stir”

VC walking back and forth
Not ten feet away
How they didn’t find us there
Don’t know till this day

So I have his radio –
Different frequency.
Radio for help and pray.
Raymond A. and me
Can outlast the jungle heat
And the freezing cold.
Raymond A., he falls asleep.
That is when I told,
“Raymond A., snap to it man!”
Silent but Alive.
“Raymond if you fall asleep
We will not survive.”

I look at the radio –
Toss it just like mine
In the jungle back in Nam.
Charlie cannot find
Anything that gives away
who or where you are.
You must play a waiting game.
We are in too far.
So we sit all through the night
Hiding in plain sight.
Hiding from the enemy,
Pushing back the fright.

Raymond A is hurting bad.
Me? I’m feeling week.
I just sit and hear him breathe,
Pray he doesn’t speak.
Charlie walking on patrol.
Looking – they can’t find.
All the others looked at me.
“Just leave him behind”

Chopper comes at early dawn
Bullets raining down
Man those hotdogs sure could shoot
Everything around

Raymond A is on my back
And I make a run
Man, that guy was heavy too
But I know I’m done

If I drop him or get hit
I run fast and low
Maybe it’s because of that
That now I take it slow.

Chopper throws a ladder rope.
Somehow pulls us in
I hear someone say to me
“Sir where have you been?”

But I look at Raymond A
Now you’ll be ok
Raymond it’s ok to sleep
Raymond can you say
Where you live ‘cause
In while they will send you home
Raymond A., we made it through
You are not alone

I get back to base and sleep
Sleep and eat and sleep
Raymond A is soon forgot
This story I keep
To myself for many years
Until one December day
Card comes in the mail.
I’m surprised ‘cause I’ve made sure
Not to leave a trail.
It is nearing Christmas time
Clear and crystal day.
Card comes with a picture too.
It’s from Raymond A.

Seems a Brother heard my name.
He knew Raymond too.
Though he should have asked me first,
He knew what to do.

Gave my name to Raymond A,
And my address too.
You know how I tend to be.
No one has a clue…

What it’s like or what we did
How they called us names
Baby Killers = and they spit
When we got off the planes

At the airport, holding signs
Good old USA
But I turn and close my eyes
Think of Raymond A.

Feel the hatred in their eyes
That’s my welcome home
Stone-faced, put on my disguise
I am not alone

In my mind, it’s Raymond A
Waiting there for me
He salutes and gives a wink
That’s enough for me

Raymond is a husband now
Kids? Yeah, he has three:
Says he tells his older one
To grow up just like me

Raymond has a real first name.
But, until this day,
I cannot remember it.
He’s just Raymond A.

When I’m feeling kind of low,
I take out his letter
Think about the jungle night
It makes me feel better.

Sun is peeking from the sky.
I guess I’ll try to sleep.
Some things you just keep inside.
Some things you just keep.

Author’s Note: A few weeks ago, a new salesperson arrived at work. Within the first 5 minutes of meeting him, he managed to tell me that he was a Vietnam Veteran. He had been in the Army and served four Tours. I couldn’t understand why he told me. He knew nothing about Tim and me, at that first introduction. I am grateful he is around. He and Tim have many similarities. And many differences too. Tim is 6’2 and a former Marine. Tony is 5’4, and a former Army Ranger. Both had tough childhoods growing up. Tony is very confrontational and likes to be heard. Tim keeps most of it inside, although as a former rock and roll engineer and musician, he has his moments too.

Tony often tells me about his dreams and his Nam Nights. A few weeks ago, He talked about how everyone tried to watch out for each other, but sometimes you had to leave someone behind. When I asked Tim about that, he nodded quietly, “Yeah, but not my outfit… and not me. We were Recon… Special Forces.” We were at the kitchen table. Tim lit a cigarette and he told me this story about a soldier whose name was Raymond A.

Actually, Tim said that in the Marines the way you said your name was, last, then first, then the initial. An example:

“What’s your name Soldier?”
“Sir, Bass, Robin A., Private…… Sir!”
(Tim was a Lieutenant)

That was how he learned who Raymond A was, when he was a on a Recon mission and came across some wounded army soldiers. He never actually understood Raymond A’s last name, so he just called him Raymond A.

Raymond A was in pretty bad shape. The rest of Tim’s unit wrote him off. Tim refused to leave.