Gregory J. Usher

Greg was an Infantry Corporal in Korea with the 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment 1952 – 1953


Korean dawn
As sunlight glims barbwire on the trenches
the sickly, cloying stench of rotting corpses
putrefies the air,
pervades, overwhelms.
Reel back! Recoil!
Skirt wide that source.
– – with time – –
foxes and vultures disperse the smell,
bare bones glisten in the sunlight.
Thus cleanly pass the dead.

But – what fate then awaits the living -
whose souls decay in self-destroying stench of -
Buried anger? Pride? Jealousy? Greed? Envy? Fear? Hatred?
Unacknowledged? Unclaimed?
– – Not mine! Not mine! – –
What helpful carrion will disperse THAT smell?

Hide it away ‘neath false painted smiles,
Paste them on! Paste them on!
Cover it up with sweet-sounding platitudes?
Pile them on! Pile them on!
Clear it away with potions and pills, diets and drugs!
Swallow whole! Swallow whole!
Throw it away on someone else – anyone else!
Yet still ~ that stench persists,
roiling and clinging in the deep, dank corners of the Soul
– – until – –

We ourselves accept the awesome task
of journeying down to labyrinthine depths.
Search through these flaws
And – with trembling courage – claim those which are ours.
Gently, tenderly – release the pain and guilt and then,
embrace them and absorb their strength.

Thus and only thus,
can we reclaim the bare bones of the Soul
as cleansed with our tears
we carry them forth to the light of the Truth.

That Truth, that we ourselves and ALL are part of One,
but only ceaseless honesty and love
will lead us back to join that Source
Reclaim our lost Divinity
and come once more to the Kingdom which lies within
where bare, white bones are newly – fleshed in Heaven’s light.

Author’s Note: With North Korea so much in the news lately I thought I would publish this poem for the first time. When the Korean War had changed to become a “static” war fought mainly from fixed positions along the 38th parallel a favourite ploy of the Chinese was to booby trap the bodies of any of our troops who had been killed on patrol, placing their bodies on the barb wire to our front. After a couple of casualties in trying to recover them for burial we were ordered to just leave the bodies where they were.

If I hate anything – it is hypocrisy! At the time I wrote this, I had been meditating fairly intensely – hence the reference to searching within.