Gary Jacobson

A DEATH HIGHLY EXAGGERATED

Fact is stranger than fiction bore by men who toil for war
For fighting travails bear many queer tales
Where brave men slave away for a rich uncle’s pay
On hard coral atolls where they gamble their souls
World War II in the South Pacific, to be quite specific
With armament sufficient to reap the wind and harvest the torment
Where flying bullets endemic make red-blooded men suddenly anemic
Spilling their scarlet blood for the brotherhood…
Mired in bloody battle’s gore all good men abhor.

Andy’s strange story told is thus bigger than bold
How a quite dead Andy lived to a ripe ninety…
As he tells it, he was a sprightly young lad at Japs just a tad mad
Till an explosion it’s said made me quite dead
Left me breathing not a breath in foul cankered death.
No question about it, I grew deader by the tropical minute
“But I wasn’t dead,” his eyes twinkled with fiery sparks of red
Andy said, looking you straight in the eye
Telling all who would hear how he came to die.

I met Andy at my First Cavalry reunion, an old warrior’s convocation
When he joined in boisterous communion and healing tribulation
Hearing old soldier’s spinning combat yarns anew forever true blue
Big ones, small ones, tall tale ones, bigger and taller by the minute ones,
Tales of stout heroism amid savagery, bravery and comedy
Feasting on stories of desert, tropical island, or forested pit reveling
O what high-flying ones the proverbial fan hit with customary deep shi--,
Uh, er, stories of sweet-and-sour hue did ensue where days of yore flew
Told by those “few good men” with all wide-eyed wonder due.

Andy was a showman, a caricature drawing attention to his storied character
Popping right out of past times dressed to the nines
An old soldier outfitted in WW II khakis with spit-and-polish shines
Sharing story days in glory told bold of when he walked the lines
Of brave men in the South Pacific who fought with ardor fraught
Each man beside his neighbor inspired by Pearl Harbor
Giving Japs for their cowardly attack a Yankee payback
In days bearing futility, infamy, destiny… death eventually
Facing hell and high water and boyhood slaughter,
Waging war with an emperor who said he was God, by God!

Stationed out in the South Pacific where weather’s kinda terrific
Calmly pleasant one minute, then torrential heavens scowl and skies growl.
That’s where Andy put his American life so fine on the line
Where accursed heat and relentless beat
Fires the very bone with the need to atone…
Andy didn’t complain nor blame this mad infantryman’s game.
“How could I quit though my brain sizzled so,
When my rich uncle’s payin’ me all that dough…?”

Andy spun yarns smartly dandy filling all with ear candy
I’ve seen the world whirl and gave it a twirl,
And danced to the blue moon a jig…
Alongside the brotherhood in this big South Pacific gig
Though hot as Hades in the pits of hell I’m feelin’ quite swell.
A breathing paradox, living or walking, is Andy talking…
Setting all in stitches, near made us wet our britches.
With practiced dry wit promotion he told of his death aberration…

Though I’d died beside buddies in a hostile explosion
They couldn’t bury me on land or sea,
Holy tarnation… no aberration
No phony baloney, nor fast-talking blarney,
Assuring he’s speaking
With nary fabrication nor prevarication
Yet plying whoever listened with a veritable conundrum
Smooth as Bay Rum.

This island atoll, this Pacific Island boll,
Part of the river of life harmony, growing on crustaceans bony
The whole island built on agony of hard-coral skeleton’s stony
Coral multiplying in warm seas and tropical breeze
Dying where tropical heat cleaves, bore down like waves
So brothers of the brave could dig no grave
And though war depraves
They could not just keep their fallen dead in caves…
So what were poor grave-diggers to do in tropical damps and dew?

Relentlessly stifling heat made the honored dead kinda ripe?
Overripe dead heroes made living fellows start to gripe.
Tell it with candor, piled up dead began emitting an obnoxious odor
They had to do something. Anything!!!
And somehow it evolved, Congress became involved
Ordering Andy’s dead body shipped to another island for burial
But just before the earth swallowed Andy up in final proverbial
Grave-diggers put Andy’s dog-tags in his mouth as per usual
Forced his jaw to clamp down in final death credential.

When Andy bit down in death, they detected living breath
Our Andy was not quite dead as had been said…
Reports of exaggerated death premature to be sure
Andy had not died… he lived!
He lived to tell of his death foray, his miraculously heartwarming story
Which I must say, he delights to do with entertaining feasts of allegory
For instance, delighting listeners as how his poor mother for sustenance
Received Andy’s GI Insurance.
“She kept it all… wouldn’t give me a nickel.”
Andy said with a wry chuckle.

Andy positively regaled us… with dry humor assailed us
A newspaper he showed, with gravelly voice crowed
Andy pointing a bony finger like an icicle at an article
To an Alabama Veteran’s wall with names of dead who gave all
Andy’s name was there… he’d indeed died… Andy had not lied!
Andy laughed, pointing to his epitaph
His name proudly numbered beside those by death encumbered
He had not facts glorified, Congress Andy’s death had certified.

It’s on Congressional record “Andy’s dead… of all life bled
On a lonely South Pacific beachhead.
Oh what a surprise when a brother, death buys, and before you dies
And though you shed a tear for your departed brother dear
Pervading lightening fermentation does enlivening corpses leaven
Reverence turns to horror as a smell arose to high heaven
Then when you go him to bury,
Your dead brother sticks his head up quite contrary.

So Andy’s their honeysuckle
Ain’t that a kick in the head kinda fickle.
Oh the stories drudged out of the past’s deep, dark well,
That certified dead soldier lad could tell
Like a machine gun spittin’ vocal driblets like bullets
Andy said “cross my fingers if I lie, I hope to, well… die!”
Had us in a spell, rolling on the floor as well;
Without braggadocio or fact disfiguration – just plain education.

Andy then told other stories, big, brassy and bold,
Just fact, no brag… no gag
Of his altercation with a girl and General Macarthur’s action
How he went on to manage Gorgeous George to pro-wrestling glory
But, as they say… that is another story…

1Lt Andrew (Andy) J. Tsimpides
1Lt Andrew (Andy) J. Tsimpides
1st Cavalry Division, Pacific Theatre, WWII