Untitled Free Verse
by Jerry Murphy
— Transcribed exactly as written (freehand) on February 8, 2000 —
For all who have never served
And those who served and were not
In the trenches
On the Line
...a few men of the 173rd Airborne Infantry are speaking.
They tell of Hill 875 in Dak To, Vietnam, 1967
And I realize
These are terms we will never understand
Nor experiences we will ever have
Or feelings which we cannot shed
Ideas gone awry and we know not why
Or be astounded we stand here alive.
We will never smell the smells
We will never know the noises
Nor the confusion of will and matter
Nor feel that great aloneness of man
We will never mourn so deeply — ever
Nor will we be so close to another
Or even, many others as some know it.
How can we understand the ground to shudder
And the world around to fall to demise
We will never know. We will never know.
We may try, but we have no such imagination
We have no conception of the heartache or terror
Nor the fear we will not hold up our end
— as demanded by our mere presence — here (there)
We will never stand so cold — nor so hot —
Nor will we be so parched while drowning in sweat
Nor fear what we do not know so vividly
While knowing too much of what man is not
Nor will we ever be able to read minds so easily.
We will never grasp so thoroughly a single idea
So uniquely that of each man with whom we share
Both the thought and the experience — "Let it be over"
And never let it come back to me again
Yet many — many — have reentered the experience
More than once...to several times — knowingly.
Some came with the glory idea and held it close
Until experience — and mayhem — told them otherwise
Man into the fray, willing or not, but there
Subject to seconds, lasting for hours and even days
Deafening tumult and upheaval, fear and passion — and hope
Each one, each man, so very different, made exactly the same
— whether briefly — or forever — since many do die.
And who of them (surely not us) can tell them why.
We will never know the weariness, the exhaustion.
The thick hail of death stuff overhead...or into us
We will not know of the gasp for air...at being alive
When others have not been so lucky, or arrogant — or both
Now will we feel the loss — and the quiet of remaining
Standing with our comrades, staring into eyes full glazed
With a wonder, and wondering "Why am I here?"
We will never be filled with such misery for what we do
But do it because the man beside us is doing it
We will never know what it is to earn a place we do not want
But earned it is, thrust upon them with the thunder of battle
Ground into each with white heat, red blood — and a loathing
Knowing they will stay, because those beside them stay
And those beside them feel exactly the same way
It is not a test. Moreso it is the long, cold promise
That battle makes upon each, equally, fully
Day after day after day — including those days
No. We will never know the knowing of such days
Nor the message in their minds — think about it —
Don't think about it
We will never pray so fervently — or otherwise
— not pray at all
We will never know the tear, the tear of change;
Torn unequally from each heart...
Understanding pain, knowing we have delivered it.
We will never know that pause in time, because we are safe
For this moment — this hour — this day
Only to have the pause disappear
And not return soon, or even ever
We will never know the vision of time held still like a photo
Placed in memory, unyielding to the want to forget.
No, those not there will never know
We will not grasp
We will not understand
We will not comprehend
We will never know. We will
not ever know.
Thank you men of the 173rd Airborne Infantry
2nd and 4th Battalions — for your service
For your sacrifice.
Thank you every man (and woman) who
ever served in the trenches, on the line,
From those who will never know
Who will not ever know.