Frank joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the age of seventeen and retired after twenty-five years of service. He served in the South Pacific, the Philippines, Taiwan, Korea and the Antarctic where he received training as a nuclear engineer and health physicist. After certification as nuclear engineer, Frank spent the next twenty years designing nuclear power plants. Frank has been married forty-eight years, he has written three books, and hosts a monthly poetry forum from his home in Mt Airy, MD.
Night - no sound of crickets, nor of whispering leaves;
All about is dead to dust - but yet the ear perceives
Eerie sounds that faintly shake the fetid tropic air;
Echoes of a finished battle, reflected from Nowhere;
Bursting shells and cannons' roar
And screams of men who died on shore.
Do you hear too? - Or am I mad? Spirits hover near -
Men who came just this far - and stopped forever here;
Rise to greet we fresh, young troops;
We come as they, in gray gun-sloops.
We stop a while, and curse that baking, barren beach,
Where they had bled in surf, beyond a medics' reach.
Whispering ghosts arise from dust and rust and sand,
Yank and Jap bones bleach commingled where jungle used to stand.
Dead ships and tanks asunder, rot from ravages of salt and sun;
It's your island now, Yank; but no one really won.
Damn you! STOP! Give one thought here to what lies ahead;
Here night was turned to blasting Hell, the living to the dead;
Dense jungle trees— now here and there a splintered jagged pole -
Graveyard in nowhere - Eniwetok Atoll.
Hot, tropical morning, all Luzon lay beneath my view.
Struggle and death at every compass point turned;
Mud bespattered soldiers and muddier convoys,
Tramp through villages battered and burned.
Off in the haze hanging over their hovels—
People--wretched, hungry, and full of despair:
‘Way beyond the city— a hillside, a rolling green meadow,
And ten thousand white crosses there.
Over there! A dusty, barren flatland where cannon
Had destroyed all green with deep, thunderous roar.
Eyes roam aimlessly back to the verdant meadow,
And the ten thousand men who are no more.
Thoughts wander far back— a different land
And a different time— eager young men volunteer
To come out to this tropical jungle to fight— to die.
Jap invaders, Filipino victims, Yank defenders,
all stay forever here.
Oh I suppose that my gaze is really a prayer
Of thanksgiving, that I’m still alive— free;
Thank you, God, that one of those distant
White crosses doesn’t mark the remains of me.
So you’ve heard it all before, huh?
The expressions are trite, time-worn and thin.
Then friend, find you an old Filipino
And ask what these things mean to him.
Late Summer 1945
Dug in, behind the sounding guns,
Beware of attack from irregular ones.
Honker-down in sleeping bags,
In frozen muddy holes—
Watchful sleep for aching bodies
And battered, weary soles.
In fitful sleep,
Dream of open prairie lands;
Back there, a Sioux girl
My love still commands.
Damn fate! Lets me but once sip
Her love— Oh accursed duty!
Torn from the nectar of
Her wild, free, dark beauty.
But niggling doubt damps passion —
Burns as internal fire
Flame not to warm my sole,
But to make it a blackened pyre.
Dare I risk emotions aroused
By fitful dreams,
While buddies get “Dear John” letters
Of a hundred varied themes ?
Thus ever the fate of the soldier:
A kiss and a promise of peace.
Next day, swing aboard a trooper,
To the wars that never cease.
A few days or weeks of rapture—
Build dreams of “might’ve-been”
Beauty, and honest devotion,
Sacrificed on the alter of sin.
Piercing little almond eyes beaming from beneath soup-bowl bangs;
The World was unfolding wondrous beauties and promises divine;
Just as any other teenager aspires and dreams; as that secret enzyme
First engorges generative attributes to blush with tender bloom.
The Imperial Commissioner to Takao entered the Girls’ Schoolroom:
“In this seventeenth year of Hirohito’s reign, it is my duty to proclaim
That when the Round Eyes’ with their bombers come to our city again
All girls past their fourteenth year will, in The Service of The Emperor—
Report to the hospital, to nurse the fallen, wounded, injured, lame.”
The Commissioner turned to go, every girl arose, genuflected low.
It is for our people, our homes, our Land— is it not so?
Wailing sirens then would shake the night and little girls would willing go.
Many raids, many calls — no longer could ambulances the bombed roads traverse
Little girls with Gurneys roamed the wreckage — retrieve the wounded, worse.
Weary little legs would run bloody cargo to overcrowded healing halls.
Then out to recover more broken wretches from beneath the crumbling walls.
Once, wheeling in a battered old man, one leg crushed beyond repair,
The surgeon in bloody boots said, ”Right in here! Four girls stay there!”
For they were to replace depleted anesthesia and serve as table straps
While the surgeon cut away the bloody leg— screams, then merciful collapse.
Gurney the dead up to the morgue, a job weary kids would vie for.
Push the corpse into a cubicle — close it, then lean against the door.
Fifteen minutes snooze after twenty hours brutal work and horror;
Then back to school. Be alert! For the bombers’ll come again tomorrow.
A bomb crashed into the morgue one night. Our little heroine dived down low
A rain of rocks and filth— A buzzing piece of shrapnel fell by her all aglow.
She ran, ran, ran to someplace out of town. Then an old bus into the hills.
The hospital never missed her — she was just another of the kills.
She somehow found her mother hiding in a lowly peasant shack
The child was shaking with malaria. Her mother cried to have her back.
The mother traded her food to Jap soldiers for quinine and meprocine
To save this child who’d seen so much, and was not yet seventeen.
Winter night descends, cooling metals cry;
The warm breath of Caterpillar engines die;
Six miles of road gouged from rice paddies;
Tomorrow, another fourteen hours, Laddies!
Too tired to sleep, too worn to be awake;
Sleeping bags in ditches for safety’s sake.
Poncho-wrapped against blown snow that flew.
Flattened, murdered village of Chung-ju.
Countryside, barren, boulder-strewn, and void.
Every artifact of humanity destroyed
No foliage, no weeds, nor trees, not even stumps.
Scattered human corpses— pitiful, frozen lumps.
Poor native dead— there since the retreat we’re told:
In decay. We pass’d them by; thank God for the cold.
This the Communists did! —this— their killing grounds!
Old grey-heads, pregnant mommas, awaiting burial mounds.
We must press on. Mission— supply line to the front:
Infantry, artillery— get ‘em the supplies they sorely want!
Brutal, back-breaking, horrid, heart wrenching, work of war!
Bitter burden, wasted people—trashed equipage—filth galore!
This, the land and stuff of eternal nightmares —
The “karumpf” of shells, the startling, blinding flares.
Piteous death screams, severed flesh—acrid taste of war!
Bitter broken, wasted people—trashed everything—filth galore!
Reading every fourth line there is another poem;
a stark, eleven word inditement of war--
dedicated to the 56,000 Yanks who died there.
I learned somethin’ in the jungle
Civilized man can’t understand;
I’ve learned of death and torture;
I’ve seen the healing of heathen hand.
There are nights of screaming wildness
And nights of wondrous peace
There are days of ripping foulness
And the killings that never cease.
There were times when I bore witness
To transformation of the soul.
There were those with unknown sickness
That were there again made whole.
Old women, long blind by nature,
Could see into the hearts of men;
And dispense dried blood of a creature,
To make a girl yield to your yen.
There were old men gifted at blessing bolos
Before a raid on the Sons of Nippon.
Naked Negritos dropped from where— God knows:
By dawn, The Rising Sun would be gone.
Oh, we pity those poor, ignorant bushmen
Whose superstitions leave us laughing in tears
But if we ever have to survive in that jungle again
We’d better heed the wisdom of 3,000 years!