Ruth J. Decker


Ruth J. Decker: Point Man
Paul Decker ~ Vietnam, 1969
Sharp-nailed thorns paw at my shoulder
Scratch my face, drawing blood.
Armed ebony shapes loom, menacing;
Dark octopi displaced and erect.
Night sky lighter still than they!
Should I fear? Should I welcome
The shelter afforded from smaller
Armed shapes, skulking, eyes piercing?

I push through brush long entangled,
Waiting, ears sharpened, alert to snap
Of twig, unseen, broken by human foot?
Or animal? Who goes there?
Cold steel leveled at cold steel.
Which shall discharge death?

Waiting, dry gulp of throat, heart hammering!
Charge! – the foolish impulse – No! Wait!
Though waiting be more torture than
Reckless confrontation.
Ah! Hear you the sly footstep?
Has he discounted human presence?
Day! Where is your spotlight?
Flares! Your probing glare?
Breathing – close, unseen target!
Now! Finger tense, benumbed,
Involuntary pressure, resounding shot!
Crackle and thud of body falling!

Should I move – or wait?
Is he solitary hunter?
Aching muscles clench,
Holding me still,
Crouched in granite.
Listen. He moves not; no comrades
Come to his aid. Endless time –
Humming quiet unbroken.
Cold now, accepting yonder peril,
Knee after knee.
Stop! Ears straining,
No answering brush sound.
(But where there is one may be many!)
Careful! Do voices murmur forward?
Turn! Retrace knee steps;
Think not of fallen prey.
Warning clamped behind bitten lips,
I reach others like me
And breathe at last!

The following is a brief description of the poem as included on the 7th Cavalry (Vietnam) web site.

Paul Decker
November 29, 2003

“POINT MAN is an excellent poem written in 1969 by Paul Decker’s late mother, Ruth Decker. It is amazing how she was able to describe the fears and apprehensions all of us experienced in Vietnam. Perhaps it was related to her own anxious moments waiting for her son to return. This poem, as well as several others she wrote, was published in the early 1980’s.”