Gary Jacobson


Kohima Memorial in Burma
This poem was inspired by the Kohima Memorial in Burma.

The Kohima 2nd Division Memorial is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on behalf of the 2nd Infantry Division. The memorial remembers the Allied dead who repulsed the Japanese 15th Army, a force of 100,000 men, who had invaded India in March 1944 in Operation U-Go. Kohima, the capital of Nagaland was a vital to control of the area and in fierce fighting the Japanese finally withdrew from the area in June of that year.

The Memorial itself consists of a large monolith of Naga stone such as is used to mark the graves of dead Nagas. The stone is set upright on a dressed stone pedestal, the overall height being 15 feet. A small cross is carved at the top of the monolith and below this a bronze panel is inset. The panel bears the inscription:

“When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say, For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today”: Circa WWI by John Maxwell Edmonds (1875-1958)
For Uncle Sam I’ve served my time
Slogging through mayhem’s motley rhyme
With my kindred platoon minions of death hunting
My blood brothers the valley’s shadow patrolling
Through a killing zone far from bunkered abode
Xin Loi girls, saddle up, lock and load
Brother grunt, prepare to rock and roll, you relic of war
Facing Hell on earth with convictions brave bore!

Humping Nam’s not so bad, really kind of nice
Dying in a tropical paradise
Dinky dau doom and gloom strangely exotic…
Fears swollen in your throat in killing grown erotic!
This short-timer has but 30 days and a wake-up
O blessed time drive on, giddyup
And nobody will ever understand why
We just went where we could so easily die!

Shhh! Death in the jungle does sleep
Do not awaken it, or its deadly harvest you’ll reap.
From the DMZ to the Coastal Lowlands
From the Mekong Delta to the Central Highlands
Boys give their all for God…
For freedom’s iron rod…
Far away from home exiled
“Boy next door” values defined, by bestial war defiled.

Bravely, in word and deed we say,
“For your tomorrow, we gave you our today!”
Hovering between life and death’s sweet oblivion
Our moral deviation altered by war’s aberration
Where feeling good is more than you deserve
War imploding forever on every fiber and nerve…
Grunt, with verve, go on relentlessly searching
Xin loi forbidding jungle forever hacking, hacking.

Walk life lived with the safety off.
Laugh at death so hard to knock your socks off.
Walk the fine line rim of stark reality
Sweating, rushing, battling sheer futility
Surrounded on a jungle island isolating the platoon
Stranded brothers with enemies all around maroon
Tip-toeing on the edge of ability
Pushing on while ignoring death’s inevitability.

While back home politics and the dart board decide
Who lives … who dies … who gets the free ride?
Who patrols oppressive heat where Charlie abides?
Who in rear echelon shelters hides?
To see them look up, look down, look all around…
Probably won’t see them unless they want to be found!
Who walks midst bloodletting carnage out here
Or is stuck in the rear with the gear?

It’s so easy to trace this trail of tears
On vapid vapors just smell the fears.
Bullets with your name on it fly to their mark ASAP
So quick assassins of death sad sack soul’s zap!
Sing the song of napalm’s red fire
Beaucoup movement in the wire
Thunder and rain … did I mention the profane rain
Cursed monsoon rain … driving me insane!

One of many mortal men moving like ghosts…
Searching for amenable forest hosts:
Everywhere, the caustic smell of ripened death.
Fire ants, monsoons, leaches, VC, harmful to health
Follow men with the ace of spades in helmet’s band
Destruction held in God’s Almighty right hand
Men wanting to kill you, shadowing every move,
Just out of sight, only moving, when you move.

Charlie blends in well in his 3-tiered campground
Battle’s assailants search for him like a bloodhound,
Searching, till he finds you,
Thus will the ultimate mystery ensue,
For the warrior for whom sanity evaporates
Roaming dark’ning jungles fear saturates
Beset all around with enemy visuals
Blood trails, killing sign, but no actuals.

O ye green clad warriors of ill fated breath
Do you want to know more about destined death?
Know the way it oughta be,
In men’s wars great destiny … insanity
See the way it’s all gone wrong
Too tired to wonder who’s right in combats cacophonous song.
Just call, who my brothers, this day stands with us?
Who my brothers, stands arrayed this day against us?

War has changed America’s hope for its royal princes
Flowers of youth grown in war, animalistic senses
Just trying this madness to survive…
Trying hard to stay alive…
Bartering birthright’s heritage by killing’s power crazed
Forever unbalanced by the shining lie deranged
Freedom’s valiant esoterica
Flowing out of the mouth of America.