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The Poetry of Gerald Ney

Philadelphia Pensylvania

February, 2013



Gerry has been a friend of mine online for over a decade. We met through Vietnam Veterans of America online. This is just one large page of his poetry. See another at NeyPoetry.html aw


The Leaf Rider 8/5/85

(after the manner of the Eorlingas)

Where now are chopper and rider?
Cartridge belt gold gleaming,
Sunshower spray glistening,
A circlet of rainbow
Below the blades sweeping;
Out over the wire leaping,
Like leaves before the tempest reeling,
The greening blades of the paddies mirroring,
Bathed in the tropic heat, yet
In their ruffled blue fields shivering;
With the winds of war forward,
And childhood past remembering,
Is gone, as fast as the wind furrows
In the green-blue carpet
At first burst banished by bullets and blood.

Whither the windhover,
Above tangled green gliding,
The riders' glance sees not
The hurricane, the land
Their metal steeds' clacking racket

So on down to the great grass
To tree line on tree line
And always some never more
And some bodies for a time
While many minds and hearts hurt worse than

Yet new faces old places ever
Steady as the monsoon rain's
As regular as its
The long hot months into years
Till they all were
* * * * * * * * * *
So say men over a shot and beer
No knights in armor
Who once were lads in the summer
And did their job of
Someone else sometimes scathed becoming.

- Gerald Alan Ney
(a letter of submittal to the Atlantic Monthly - 9/9/85)
[returned w/pink slip saying it was not what they were looking for]

The enclosed poem; while the first ever submitted for
by myself; is one of a number written at irregular intervals over
years. I believe it's one of the best. With much encouragement
friends and coworkers, I decided to submit
Structurally, it's loosely modeled on the epic poetry J.R.
Tolkien wrote associated with the "Lord of the Rings" and
"Silmarillion"; especially the story of Eorl the Young at
battlefield of Celebrant: "Where now are the horse and rider?"
is not a remembrance of past glories, however. A year in 'Nam (
'68 - Jul '69); thoughts provoked by works such as the 'Battle
Malden', "The Red Badge of Courage", "Fields of Fire" and "A Rumor
War"; the vets I've met over 16 years; and events like the New
"Welcome Home" Parade, all went into the long simmering mental
And yes, line 1 stanza 4 is also an allusion to Hopkins’s '
Windhover' in both possible meanings of the term besides referring
a chopper.

"Why now after all these years?" A few chance words at a party
during conversation triggered the coming together of many strands. It
was ready then, not before. I can produce a serviceable report to
order, but something creative only when moved. After all these years,
can still vividly remember staring holes through the blackboard,
desperately trying to come up with a subject to write about, much less
plowing ahead laboriously to finish something/anything.

To get back, respectfully request your consideration of the
enclosed poem.
Oh yes, arrived in Binh Dinh Province, II Corps as a "leg" 2LT
assigned to the 172nd Military Intelligence Co., 173rd Airborne
Brigade (probably the lowest life form on the planet is a green
ROTC-produced 2LT working in the "contradiction in terms" who is a
non-paratrooper among horde of same going by the nickname "The Herd").
Except for seeing someone killed in front of me, everything else is as
remembered. My Benning classmates who were infantry saw enough of the
rest to overload hundreds of lives.
If there is any one theme, it is whom you send is not whom you
get back, even if they are alive.

/s/ Gerald A. Ney

-----Original Message-----
From: Ney, Gerald A CIV
Sent: Friday, November 21, 2008 11:11
Subject: RE2: The Leaf Rider.

The "Leaf Rider" is somewhat unique. It has no brothers or sisters
among the rest of my poems so to speak. I was at a party in the
Compound O Club, and people were telling war stories. Something
clicked in my head, and I excused myself, went back to my branch
area, sat down at the secretary's typewriter and it all flowed out
in about 22-25 minutes flat. Was not consciously writing a cinquain,
but the general pattern was set by my taking the opening line from
Tolkien's "Song of Eorl the Young" - 'Where now are horse and rider?',
changing horse to chopper, and while retaining the rhyming scheme from
the "Lay of Beren and Luthien", going off in my own direction.

The Haunted Dream - 4/23/97 0200 hrs
[ Upon reading Internet posts triggered by the upcoming 22nd
anniversary in 2 days of the fall of Saigon & the RSVN ]

Silent wings through the night,
Stealing into our sleep with fright,
Freighted with terrible weight,
And memory of loss.
Bolt upright we awake.
The stuttering sounds inside still quake.
You hear the cries of those forsook,
And remember their loss.
Hands raised, arms outstretched.
You can't span time and space
To pull them up, take them in,
And their loss is your loss.
"A thousand tears falling",
So wrote Yung Krall.
Their flow pursues us still,
Till forgiveness for failure
Is allowed to fill the loss.

- Gerald A Ney

"Skip" Renshaw was in the same student officers' platoon for the
Infantry Officer's Basic Course as myself from just after Thanksgiving
1967 to early February 1968. 60% of the class were Infantry and
40% were Military Intelligence Corps, who were attending "to get an
appreciation of the problems of the infantry officer". MI didn't have
it's own basic course till it moved from Ft. Holabird, Md to Ft.
Huachuca, Az in 1970. Skip was one of the few who were married.
We didn't see each other again till running into one another at the Cam
Ranh Bay Officer's Club on April 9 or 10, 1969. He was on his way
back to the First Air Cav from R&R with his wife in Hawaii and I was
on my way out to R&R in Bangkok. He talked about how they had
to spend the first 2 days getting to know each other all over again
after the combat he'd been through. I promised I'd write as soon as I
got back; which I actually did.
There was no answer and eventually my tour was up in mid-July.
I was just about to take my turn boarding a C-130 for Bien Hoa; where
I would catch a flight to Travis AFB; when our detachment jeep came
flying down the airstrip with our clerk half standing in the passenger
seat, waving a large brown envelope. So everything came to a halt
while they drove up and handed me the envelope. It contained my
letter to Skip plus a cover letter beginning, "We regret to inform you..."
He'd been killed in action April 13 on Easter Sunday, just days after
we met. It put quite a damper on my return trip home.


In Memory of Skip 3/8/99
{after seeing "Saving Private Ryan"}
You always seemed a little older,
And it wasn't the two years
Time you had on us.
A maturity perhaps found
In learning to be
A husband;
While we were still
Half in half out,
Hobbitlike tweens,
More carefree
Than we knew and
Not quite responsible;
For all life ahead
Was an unknown path
Into the Wild,
With dangers we thought
We knew something of,
From class and training,
Barely beyond Toy Soldiers
Mustering, but tasked
To lead real men
With very real lives,
Both sturdy and fragile
Before the human storm,
To beard Death
At his own hearth
And bring them back
In one piece
After duty was done...
"Objective Secure, Sir!"
So we slipped and slid
On the red clay mud,
Benning's best batch.
And the wait-a-minute
Vines held us fast.
Looked good on the map!
And you took the BS
And messing around
With our minds
With quiet good humor,
steady calm patience
Through it all.


Vietnam... In Country!
Fourteen months, or was it
A lifetime later.
Amidst eighteen laboring
Air conditioners inside
The Cam Ranh Bay O-Club.
Talked of my R and R
To be, and yours just past,
With the wife you loved,
And how the combat forced
Changes within yourself
Made necessary
Painful reintroduction
To whom you had become.
Hawaii would wait
Till you knew each other
Again. Then back it was
to jungle, NVA and battle.
I promised I'd write
On return from R and R,
and I actually did,
But never was there reply,
And in three months,
Came time to go home.
On the hot dusty runway,
With duffel and my thoughts,
Boarding beginning...
The company jeep comes,
Flying up to the plane.
A waved tan envelope
In the clerk's hand.
"We regret to inform you...",
Official notice inside.
And my letter unopened.
Dead already four days
After Cam Ranh Bay,
On Easter Sunday. Did I
Pray for you at Mass
in Bangkok's cathedral?
No memory, but suspect not;
Other things on my mind,
Not all of them holy.
A very sober homecoming
From the start, but you
Never had even that.


Find myself thinking
About you more often;
As I grow older.
Am double the
I was then, and I
Why you were the

Taken, and the rest of
Allowed to further
To make our marks in

As husbands and fathers,
Employers or employees,
As just human beings;
Have our acts and omissions
Improved our world, justified
God's gift of time?
Have I lived my life
In a way that honors
Your life sacrifice?
God knows I'm not
What I was created
To be... At least, not yet!
So I bumble on,
An older dog still learning
To become truly human.
Rest easy, my friend.
We haven't taken ev'ry hill,
But haven't given up either.

172nd MI Det.
173rd Abn Bde (Sep)
7/13/68 - 7/12/69

{ In Memory of - }
{ 1LT Anderson Neely (Skip) Renshaw III }
{ C/1/8, 1st Air Cav Div (Air Mobile) }
{ b. 12/02/43 d. 04/13/69 }
{ listed on VVM Panel 27W - Row 71 }

Woke up last Friday morning during the VVA National Convention
with the opening lines in my head and wrote the following poem
between 7:15 & 7:45 A.M. This broke 2 years' writer's block.

Purple Leaves 08/01/03
(to Paul Sutton)

It is in my mind still,
The purple leaves,
After all these years,
Four and thirty,
More than I had lived
Back then. And
It is in my mind still,
The purple leaves,
As far as my eyes
Could see to the south,
From my puttering perch
In the Bird Dog's back seat,
The purple leaves,
Hard by Mang Yang
And Mobile Group's demise;
It is in my mind still,
The lightly fluttering throngs,
Chlorophyll all lost
To the chemical demands
Of the orange spray.
It is in my mind still,
The purple leaves,
Their fading, dying lavender
Putting on their last show
In the bright tropical sunlight.
It is in my mind still,
The purple leaves,
A countless spraying carpet,
Two hundred miles square,
Still reaching for the sun
At top canopy height.
It is in my mind still,
The purple leaves,
Soon to fall,
Baring their brethren
In the understory
To the next round of spray.
It is in my mind still,
The purple leaves.
1. Paul Sutton is the chair of Vietnam Veterans of America's
National Agent Orange Committee. All 3 of his children
have medical problems stemming from his exposure to
herbicide in Vietnam.

2. Mang Yang Pass is where Highway 19 crosses the Pleiku/
BInh Dinh provincial border through the Dak Pihao Mts.
It is the site of the destruction of the French Army's Mobile
Group 100 by the Viet Minh during June 24-25, 1954.
Originally wrote Mobile "Two" due to memory glitch.

3. Was in a L-19 Bird Dog (a small Cessna) lazing along at
approximately 8000' headed south from the pass along
the province border in early June 1969. Can't remember
why I flew that one and only mission in that area; since it
was nominally in the 4th Division's AO (area of operations).

On the Road to Ollie 11/13/03

On the road to Ollie,
A pretty little temple
Perched high on the right.
Gotta get back by sunset
Before the base buttons up
Charlie owns the night.
We’re a movin’ out,
Thirty five, maybe forty.
Where were the bicycles,
Impossibly piled bundles,
Of charcoal destined wood,
Behind the conical hatted
Rider, putting
Darting chickens and kids
And occasional ancient truck
When Rat Patrol roared on.
But you in Vietnam, GI!
Xin Loi and hit the brakes!
Korean deuce and a halfs
Have right of way
Even when they don’t.
See that side road. well
One’s on fast approach
At dust cloud’s head
Won’t stop for God
Or Gen’ral Abrams.
Ridin’ shotgun ‘cause
They don’t trust an officer
To drive; though my driver’s
Most likely the better shot.
In lack of roads country,
Making the long dogleg
An Khe to English via
Nineteen and One
Twisting down Phu Cu
From highland to plain
With a wave at Qui Nhon,
Past Phu My’s pepper fields
And Uplift’s notch, then
Straight at the Tiger’s main peak,
Till the last turn north
By northwest toward Bong Son
And my temp tin roofed home,
With LZ Ollie on guard,
By its thatched hut village
And elegant tiered pagoda.
On the road to Ollie,
A pretty little temple
Perched high on the right.
Gotta get back by sunset
Before the base buttons up.
Charlie owns the night.
Over the Song Lai
Through Bong Son town,
And up to the gate…
Ten more minutes
And the barriers are down.
Ollie, Ollie Oxenfree.

Nothing Uplifting About Uplift 11/13/03
{AKA: The Armpit of the Armpit}

[Was defense counsel for a 19 yr old kid with a 7th grade education that
was always wandering off – 19 times. General discharge in exchange
for a guilty plea. They were afraid he’d get someone killed someday.}

There’s nothing uplifting
About Uplift – You see
As barren an LZ
‘Long the length of
The South China Sea
You can find.
The margins are green
On Nam’s Number One;
As the highway plays tag
With headland and beach;
Tall are the grasses
And taller the palms;
Save at Uplift…
A grayness to the green,
A dimming drab dullness
Of scraggly scrub surrounds
The neutered notch
Between the two cones…
And tents sprawl their khaki
In the smothering dust
By the steep barren sides
Of the mini mounts’ bases,
Antenna sprouting shacks
Adorn the taller peak.
And I’m led to wonder
‘Bout the boy I’m to defend
Why in hell would he go
AWOL… ‘round here
Of all places - just wandering
In the wastes that fill my sight.



It’s quiet tonight
At the mess hall
With the great sunset view,
And only God knows
All the wherefores
Of who did what to who.
Now I’m a guy who’d rather
Have coke instead of coffee…
No, not that white stuff!
But lip ticklin’ liquid
Straight from Atlanta
Back in the world.
But most O’s and E’s
Want no more than a
Decent cuppa Joe
To jump start the bod
But it wasn’t to be had
For months on end.
They loved their Mary Jane,
The guys at HQ mess,
Much better than making
Morning meals with muffins,
juice and powdered milk…
And real Army coffee.
Three sergeants came
And three sergeants gone
In five months time;
While they partied on,
Till number four brought
Forgotten rules back.
They cooked and they worked;
Then scrubbed the pots all clean.
The food turned out fine.
Thanksgiving, never better,
But someone had a grudge,
And a desire to get even.
To Sarge’s field phone
Was wired a grenade
And so when he went
To get something
Needed in a hurry
From out of his tent;
They rang him up, right
When he went inside,
But over he had bent,
Chest, arms and head
In foot locker shield,
With scarcely a dent…
Yet they fragged
The boss’s ass
And both legs too.
A medevac home,
Sarge’s tour was over,
But what for the crew?
Suspicions aplenty,
But no solid leads.
Not one cook charged,
And the war’s still on,
With Charlie to fight,
Our men to be fed.
Untrusted by all,
Forced trade is made,
Rifle and pack for
Food and utensils;
The no longer cooks
Scattered through Nam.
It’s quiet right now
At HQ mess
As I go jogging by
One crew’s going
Another comin’ in.
The war doesn’t care why.

[ The incident above actually took place
as related. I regret that I never did
find out how the mess sergeant fared
after hospitalization back in the US ]

[Had the title for months, but couldn’t quite get started]

Dali Dayze in the Wilted Watch Zone 11/19/03

They weren’t up fron
And close, hanging ou
For all to see
On Mamasan’s clothesline
Or bedecking the trees
Like so many misplaced
Lianas and strewn among
The bamboo thickets
Beyond the dike
Bounding Papasan’s paddy;
But in the mind’s eye.
Beckoning beyond sight,
And you didn’t need
Mary Jane or Uncle’s
“ I’ve got this just for you”
Numbah one best
Poppy juice product
To tell you that
The World, as in REAL,
Is back that-away!
A freedom bird flight
Of nineteen hours
And a date change
Over miles upon miles
Endless blue above
And below. Are there
Really waves down there?
But this yearlong dream
Brings no waking,
Just rules of its own.
At twilight there’s
No need of Rod
To bark, “Don’t touch
That dial!” CICV’s
Got your horizontal,
And Charlie’s at
The vertical. And
Ev’rybody but you
Is messing with
The sound.
So you warily watch
The madness unfold;
As Charlie duels
With land mines and wits.
An ambush on One
And the tanks roll out,
Treadmarks twinned
Through the rice.
What now, Papsan?
Pissed mind and heart?
At district HQ,
The police chief’s
Only without
A fancy lettered sign:
“Damage claim assist,
And clearances sold
Fronting fee for sure
And certain my take
Off the top – maybe
Some left for you.”
So I needn’t watch
old ‘50s TV, or go
to MOMA or Louvre
To scarily soak
In the surreal.
Vietnam’s war gave
Serling and Sal a run
For the gold
But had considerably
Less fun appeal.


Despite napalm and shells;
Spooky’s distant red rain
Shuddering “brrrrt!”
In the night;
We really, really tried
To keep the Nam green
Shoveling the cash,
Bushels on end,
Of scrip down low,
Greenbacks up high,
By Charlie preferred
To piasters depressed
Far below par
Black market pariahs,
And loans guaranteed
In dollars U.S.
Local business supported
Contracts galore
Cleaning, shoe shining,
Barbers on base
And neck realigned
A freebie add on; while
Displayed for your view
Color splashed landscapes,
Sakura framed Fuji,
Sunset, sampans and sea
By in-law Nguyen.
And off base laundry;
Ice cream shipped in;
Both Qui Nhon based plants.
Clean undies are great; when
The living’s all grubby.
And ice cream’s nice
At a hundred in the shade.
But never I divined
Pedigree and taste
O’ cold concoction
Coconut called.
So why on One
In daylight broad
Must Charlie choose
The laundry truck?

China Beach
11/26 & 12/02-03/03

It was not in my war,
China Beach; just a name
Slapped on a series I rarely
Had time to watch.
Where you were,
When you were,
What you were,
NVA or Viet Cong,
ARVN, Ruff Puffs or Allies
Sea, Rivers or Land
Paddies, Plateaus or Mountains
City, Boonies or Base
The muddy Wet or dusty Dry.
Same country,
Same label,
Different setup,
Different war.
The uniforms look right
And so do the tents,
Yet know not the place,
Location unknown
Nor knew the name…
Had my own spots to mind.
An Nhon, An Khe, Phu Cu, Phu Cat
Qui Nhon, Phu My, Binh Dinh, Bong Son
Tuy Hoa, An Hoa, Bao Loc, Bien Hoa,
Quang Ngai, Chu Lai, Cam Ranh, Saigon
Mang Yang, Song Ba, Song Lai Giang
Nha Trang, Phan Rang, Nui Hon Cong.
The Cordillera Annamese.
The Camp Radcliff Golf Course
And the Cav’s high horse
English, Uplift, Illinois, Ollie
The Cham temple ruins
Korean antennas sprouting
Off One ‘tween Nineteen
And the Qui Nhon spur.
China Beach, miles from me
Might have been in Tibet.
I cared not a whit.
For where I was,
When I was,
What I was,
That mattered.
1Pouring over rolls of film
That a foxhole there, or
Just a charcoal oven?
While slow cooked inside
Our own oven of a van;
Roast a bit more burning
Used film with diesel fuel,
Stir stick in the oil drum.
Your tax dollars up in smoke.
Then up and away, dangling
Telephoto lensed Pentax
In a bouncing Bird Dog
Or chattering chopper.
And on odd days playing
Perry Mason in fatigues,
A full fledged member, M I
JAG annex barracks lawyer
Keeping some accused kid
From time in Long Binh Jail,
No “six and six” in LBJ,
Loss of pay and busted rank.
Trial counsel next week;
Board member next month.
AWOL, asleep on guard,
Possession of pot or worse.
Casper platoon’s gunships
Revving in the morning,
Routine wake up for war
To start the day. And twilight
Volleyball, jungle rules,
To end it. Forefinger
Forever jammed at the net.
Ev’ning three salvo sixty
Millimeter mortars to follow.
Always missing the avgas,
Counter fire hits them not.
Ad nauseam the game goes on.
The boys at Corps HQ
A white colonial villa
They had; with hot and cold
Running water and hot
And cold running women,
A bedmate at night to protect
You from the sea breeze chill.
And they could usually go
to the beach for lunch.
Flush toilets, shade trees,
Sidewalks and air conditioned
Private rooms for pilots,
Equipped with fridge;
Squadron messes with food
Enough to feed the country,
Sufficient beer and booze
In the PX to float it; all,
With no liquor tax applied,
At your local Air Force base.
Tents for half a year
At English; then tin roofed
Shacks, assembly required.
Australian showers come
With a hoisted bucket
Sprinkler head fitted;
But better off by far
Than the grunts in the bush.
For better or worse
My own war was
In a faroff place
Not called China Beach.

Gerald Alan Ney

An Honest Man 11/26 & 12/04/03

I often wonder what
Became of the man
Though I can’t remember
His name, and his face
Fades in my memory.
Still alive? Or maybe dead…
At home in his bed?
Or by the conqueror killed
Because of their dread
Of an honest man.
You can arrest corrupts
And stage a huge trial
To trumpet their crimes
And sentence them strict
Teaching the masses
That justice you bring,
So don’t kill the crook,
He’s worth more alive,
A vivid object lesson
Held before all to see.
But an honest man,
An official at that,
A great real danger
Just by being,.
And gives the lie
To your claim,
Only your way
Is all there is.
Village chief, but first
A good and fair man.
His country it was,
Yet let pass my speaking
Only a foreigner’s tongue,
Enough English he had
To get our job done.
So when memory nags;
I pray he be blessed
Wherever he is
Though I can’t remember
His village’s name, but
His unassuming steadiness
Is present in my mind.

- Gerald Alan Ney.

-----Original Message-----
To: Ney, Gerald A CIV
Subject: Re: Christmas Eve at ====field Tower

Not to rain on artistry, but the inclusion of questionable words
and/or situations
(even in the spirit of fun) is a very, very bad idea on the govt.
system; original work
or quoted. Please think twice or thrice in future -- and then don't
do it. Not a command
(I have no right), but a heartfelt suggestion. I am not offended, I
am worried about the
reaction of those who may be and the lack of wiggle room in the rules
and penalties.
Word to the wise?

To give it a different name would not be truthful. That’s what the
field was called
by everyone on the base. The villagers did their thing there every
morning 7 days
a week. My one stint of guard duty on the tower was Christmas Eve. The name
of our puppy was really as given. He never reached maturity, but had to be
put down after contracting encephalitis.

{"There's no such thing as a bad day when you have a door knob on the inside
of the door.". Paul Galanti, CDR, USN (Ret.), POW

Christmas Eve at Shitfield Tower 11/26 & 12/04/03
{ a memory of 24 December, 1968 }

‘Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the Nam
Nothing hostile was stirring
Not even nuoc mam.
And I on our tower,
With two other men,
Watched over the shitfield;
All fragrant as a fen.
The airfield behind us
Was deserted and dark.
Not even a mouse
By the Bird Dog park.
The village was silent
Beyond field and wire;
Charlie reaped too many taxes
To start something dire.
The problem wasn’t keeping
Ol’ Charles outside,
But our guys in and away
From a young girl’s side.
Just stars slowly moved
High above us they wheeled.
When all of a sudden
Loud laughs echoed and peeled.
Round ‘bout midnight
In the company jeep
Some crazy carolers
Crooned both high and deep.
So our watch was lightened
And lonely no longer.
The more off key they sang,
Their voices grew stronger.
So we held out till morning
With spirits renewed.
An hour or so more
Our vigil to conclude.
And then out the huts
In pajamas they came,
Halfway to the wire,
All squatting the same.
And when they went back
The bucket man scooped
To gather the treasure
In the field they pooped.
That was our signal
Our time there was up,
Back to the unit and
Shithead our pup.
And the man with the bucket
Covered the paddies right nice,
Ev’ry morsel spread out
To nourish the rice.

- Gerald Alan Ney

Here There Be Dragons - 02/10/04

Like the maps of old
When no one knew better;
The blank spots we filled
In our wondering minds,
Whether conscious and dreaming,
With dragons both bad and bold.
Few knew where Vietnam lies,
Its place in the worlds of nature
And men; with what voices it spoke.
And fewer still its culture and past
Or cared. But rarest the number
Who had seen with their eyes.
So in learned ignorance we went
To teach; got toasted and taught
Having much to learn and paying
For the privilege a seller’s price;
For indeed there were dragons,
And they collected our rent.

- Gerald Alan Ney

[This is actual
Was sent out to take a picture of a dead VC for ID.
They thought he might be a main province VC honcho.
Capt Hurley, the brigade S-2 came along.
We choppered out to a Montagnard force w/2 US advisers.
The poem covers what ensued.]

Pass the Pipe and Sugar Cane…
Light on the Shrapnel, Please 11/10/04

Life is good,
Such as it is;
The dead body
Forgotten in the rear;
Photo on film
For I D on remains
All we need.
Middlin’ warm,
Some wind. clear and
Zero chance of rain,
A hundred percent
Chance of Charlie
With light to moderate
Intermittent small arms…
Great day for
A picnic by the paddies
And between return shots
The Yards go for it…
Puff on a pipe
Chaw some cane and
Maybe kill some Cong.
Gunships, tubes
Put on quite a show;
Rockets from the west,
One O Fives from south,
Erratic round lands
‘Midst seven of us
And no one hit.
The captain
Claims the shrapnel chunk,
Just missed my head.
What’s left of Charlie
Slips slowly away
While the potshot picnic
Has a final fling.
Our chopper
Returns; as the heat’s
Now off. The nasties gone.
So it’s back to base
Hot chow with cold drink
Twilight Volleyball after.
Life is good.

Gerald Alan Ney


The Original Cherry Lieutenant
{non apologia pro vita sua}
12/26 & 12/29/04

Attention to orders:
To the Nam he was sent;
Fresh fledged boy-man greener
Than an Irish Meadow*
After the rains of Spring.
With his head stuffed full
Of lectures and books,
Army training and
The best intentions.
A term appointment
With daily duties for
A sometime student
In Southeast Asia
School of Guerilla
Warfare’s sprawling South
Vietnam campus,
Binh Dinh Department.
To “beautiful,
Bright” downtown An Khe,
Showing the newbie
The lay of the land.
A lesson: “You can’t
Go when you gotta;
If the john’s a wall
Along an alley,
And you feel their eyes
Watch the lieutenant
Curious to see
Just what he will do.
Another: ‘Do nerds
Have hormones?’ ‘Yes,
but don’t know how
Or when to use them.’
And this one knew naught
Or little of love,
Of women or sex,
A clueless densoid.
So an old warrant’s
Solution was find
A female to lift
Him from Virginville.
That mission accomplished,
But jury’s still out
On how much he learned
Or still needs teaching;
About things that matter,
And the forgotten
Most relentless now
Retaught and retained?
Learned so very much
Finding out he knew
So little; wisdom
And understanding,
Took a holiday,
PX run to parts
Unknown, so it seemed
From watching the war.
Quaint rustic quarters;
Either red clay dust
Or mud, mold and slime
Gets on all his gear.
Few amenities:
Cold Australian
Showers, three holers,
Cheap soda and beer.
And when days’ work done,
Unit volleyball.
“Jungle rules”, the finger
Still shows being jammed.
An unexpected role,
Buffer between men
and Dear John’ed sergeant,
Then the major says,
“You’re way too friendly
With the enlisted.”
The fine line then walk,
Ever get it right?
Came replacement of tents
By tin roofed hooches,
“Please take a walk, Sir.
And leave that hammer.”
A fortunate son
Though; spared the worst wrath,
With a ringside seat
To the surreal storm.
With head in the clouds,
Both meanings apply,
Somehow survived to
Live and ponder why.

- Gerald Alan Ney

1. *In an interview about the filming of Ryan’s Daughter,
on Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula, David Lean stated
that they had to “tone down the green” in the film.

2. An Khe and environs are no longer in Binh Dinh
Province. Pleiku, Phu Bon provinces and western
Binh Dinh now constitute Gia Lai Province. Binh
Dinh’s western boundary is now along the mountain
ridge from the southwest corner of Quang Ngai to
the northwest corner of Phu Yen.

-----Original Message-----
From: Goodman, Robert M. CIV NAVSUPINFOSYSACT Database Admin Branch
Sent: Thursday, December 30, 2004 10:24
Subject: RE: The Original Cherry Lieutenant (12/26 & 12/29/04)

The term "nerd" dates only from the 1980s.
So it is anachronistic in this context, unless,
of course, you are using it retrospectively.
It first appeared on the TV program "Happy Days."
The problem is that “square” doesn’t convey quite the right concept,
nor does “cube”… and the latter is not as familiar to many.
I was one before it was defined.

-----Original Message-----
From: Rodgers, Alan M CIV
Sent: Wednesday, January 12, 2005 17:21
Subject: RE: Wooden Nickel for your thoughts

Reminds me of the WP Grad we got. Eager, yes! Fortunately, he was trainable.

-----Original Message-----
From: Gathings, J. Royston []
Sent: Thursday, January 13, 2005 9:06
Subject: RE: Wooden Nickel for your thoughts

Don't forget, I knew you back then! Your recollections are accurate.

-----Original Message-----
From: Ney, Gerald A CIV
Sent: Thursday, January 13, 2005 9:52
Subject: RE2: Wooden Nickel for your thoughts

Don’t whether that’s comforting or not.

-----Original Message-----
From: []
Sent: Friday, February 04, 2005 1:50
Subject: Re: Wooden Nickel for your thoughts

In a message dated 01/12/05 17:18:37, writes:
<< Just wondering what you thought of my autobiographical poem,
“The Original Cherry Lieutenant”... >>

You mean it’s *your* autobiography? It sounds an awful lot like mine!!!
;-) Glad you got me to read it and enjoy a second time.
Saul Broudy
1/Lt, USA QMC, First Log Command (Tuy Hoa)

The Greek God 03/10-30/06

There he stood,
At the volleyball net;
A clean limbed Apollo
Blond haired, blue eyed,
A hint of freckles
On a guileless face,
Six feet of “He’s cute.”
With a down home
Aw shucks open manner.
Neither an ounce of flab
Nor over muscled.
Built in springs
In his legs
As opponents soon learned.
All these years later,
My knuckle’s still jammed.
She was maybe seventeen
A Vietnamese flower with
Some likely European
Cross pollenization,
A small scattering
Of freckles across
A delicate nose’s bridge.
And she loved her man-boy
Too much it seemed.
A tearful farewell
A half dozen of us
Fifth wheels for witness.\
Don’t think he meant
Harm or hurt, but
Still there it was,
And have always wondered
What he felt inside.
After a tender goodbye
He left. Down home
Somewhere in the South
His wife was waiting.

-Gerald A. Ney

Watching Windmills in the Rain:

Vietnam Monsoon Movie Memories - 11/21-22 /06
[Thanks to Jean Debelle Lamensdorf
for triggering the memories in Write Home For Me]

The main theme mingles with
The sibilant shurrsh from
The silvery pinpoints
Of earthrushing raindrops
Muting the images
And music of the night’s
Feature, a transparent
Ever falling curtain.
I watch the windmills
Internal; stroke, counter.
Crown and the lady fair
Matching motives and wits;
As I quiet my own
Constant comment clockwork,
Time out from work and war;
Warm and halfway dry
Under the poncho. Only
My eyes, nose and boots
Elementally exposed.

- Gerald A. Ney

Lighting Up the Twilight at Charlie's Behest
The Perimeter Duty Officer's Out of the Loop
and the Battalion CO Gets a New One 07/27-28, 30/07

[Guitar noodling in Country & Western manner in background]

Up on a little bitty hill
He was, Victor Charles,
Long 'bout evenin' time,
Rifle or two in hand,
Harassment fire in mind,
And maybe a bonus
Plus size propaganda coup
Afore twilight's over.
Ay-yup! Ah-ha.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Foot sore, back ached,
Bruised and sweat laced
Beyond dog tired,
Second Bat troops
Hunkered in Bunkers
Mad more ways than one.
Watching the wicked wire,
Waiting on the night.
Wondering what's out there,
Wanting a release.
No movie for them
To mute the memory.
No caissons rolled on
That dusty tangled trail
Of fruitless filing over
Bonebreaking rocks.
And booby trapped paths.
Not even shadows to shoot.
A long range prod
Over intervening ville
The locals scramble
Underground in a trice.
An answering roar
From the American line.
At thirty feet below
The base's central height
The peace of ignorance;
Not a mote of static
The radio's silence to mar,
Nor hint of storm.
Will the major release
The required jeep before
Someone asks; the D.O.
Thinks. his worst worry
But bliss blown away
With a clatter down the ladder.
What the hell's going on?
Inquiring minds begin to sound
Off from the general on down
Through brigade CSM, Bat C.O.
To the secreted silver bar
In his insulated sanctum.
A soft answer to "Sir"
Just delays the coming wrath.
An oak leafed thunderhead
Rumbles down range. Alert
To sector butter bar:
End mad minute or else.
"You want me to hold
Their hands?" "If need be,
Yes." The colonel's coming.
"And why didn't you call?"
A tense silence ensues
While jeep and driver arrive.
The general's displeasure
Downhill ran through C.O.'s
Venting rained on the D.O.,
Lowest ranked responsible
For forty-five minutes
Till drained and spent.
No humans were harmed
In this provocateur production,
But property aplenty,
From a hamlet's huts to hogs,
Bullet blasted buffalo
And chewed up chickens.
And before next day's dawn,
Had their sarcastic say,
The VC, to the field folk,
"See what the Americans did!"
And melted into morning mist
Unscathed and untouched.

- Gerald A. Ney

An Ode to an Old Jokester 12/05/06, 05/23/08
[In memory of George Jessel's visit to LZ English]

An ancient apparition in khaki,
Swagger stick at the ready, straight
From First World War casting;
Armed with jaunty jokes
That creaked and groaned
Before someone ever thought
To plant rice in a paddy.
If the dust and heat
Made him long for the chair
With Gleason and their coffee
Not one sign he showed
And treated the troops
Like New York first nighters
Who'd bought hundred dollar tickets.

- Gerald A. Ney

Looking Down the Barrel
or All's Quiet on the Temp LZ
08/14/09 & 11/10/10

Something foolish,
More often when young,
And still survive,
With luck
And a grandmother's prayers,
To wonder
In your graying years
At the chutzpah
Of it all.
Wanted to see
What it was like
Out there at night
In the waiting time
In a foxhole alone
With nothing more
Than a field of fire
Between your breath
And whatever might come
Over the barely seen lip
Of the Highlands’ edge.
An ARVN hammer
Drove Charles west
From the paddied plain
After noon, but tortuous
Slashed overgrown ridges
And thousand foot slopes
Kept our American anvil
Out of play by day.
C-ration supper then
Into the foxhole;
Rifleman left,
Grenadier right.
If you didn’t know
What night is,
You know it now.
The battalion, then the rest
Of the listening post
Lost in the dark,
Just you and the barrel
Of your rifle pointing
Out ahead with the thought
Will you have to pull
That trigger?
Rustle, rustle from down
The slope below.
Sarge calls for flares
The grenadier pops two
Over the side, and
Scurry, rustle, scurry
Back down the hill.
And nothing and no one
Shows up in your sights.
The tropic sun comes up
Just like in Mandalay
C-rat breakfast, goodbyes
And chopper back to base
For a major chew out
By the major…
“Don’t do THAT again!
Don’t need my aerial
Photo guy getting shot! “
Curiosity could have killed
This cat, but didn’t,
With luck,
And a grandmother’s prayers.

- Gerald A. Ney

Children of the Good War
05/28, 05/31 & 06/02/12

So the story goes,
For January fourth forty four.
Best man practically shanghaied.
All Dad's pals gone to war.
Married on leave,
Then back to Florida base.
Mom followed in April,
And my birth took place
On Milwaukee's north side
Nine months later.
Of the tribal horde to come,
An early precursor.
Kids filled the homes,
Then churches and schools.
Boys overran our block
And mostly ruled the roosts.
Old helmets, toy guns,
To the neighborhood's hills.
First, Clay Hill on Deer Place
For imagined Nazi kills.
The to the sled hill
At Humboldt Park
As we got older; still,
Home long 'fore dark.
Korean conflict ongoing then,
But distant to us.
Our fathers' war
More real to us.
Or rather Hollywood's version...
John Wayne on Iwo's sands,
Victory at Sea scored by Rodger's themes,
Ticker tape parades with big brass bands.
Those dads we knew
Who were shot at;
We didn't think to ask
Why they kept quiet.
To Nam land we went
In the course of time.
Belatedly we learned
Battle's not sublime.
The hurt of us couldn't
Talk more than those fathers.
As for welcomes, many wished us
Outfits of tar and feathers.
Times have changed.
You're thanked, not harried.
Just wish it wasn't all missed
By those already buried.

- Gerald A. Ney

Current address:
[H] Gerald A. Ney
530 W. Ruscomb St.
Philadelphia, Pa. 19120-3754
PH: (215) 455-5355