Frank Crowson


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.


Eniwetok Atoll


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.


Spring 1945


Filipino Finale


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


 To Lu from the Foxhole


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.


December 1950



On the Other Side


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.


March 1959


The Chosen Land


Winter night descends, cooling  metals cry;

The warm breath of Caterpillar engines die;

Six miles of road gouged from rice paddies;

Sleep now—

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.

Over there;

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.

All’s death—

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!

Bashed babies,

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!

Hell’s playground—

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!

Chosin — 

Bitter broken, wasted people—trashed everything—filth galore!



Note: Reading every fourth line there is another poem;
a stark, eleven word inditement  of  war--
dedicated to the 56,000 Yanks who died there.


December 1950



Jungle Magic


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!


February 2004




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