Fifty Fow Joe
There was a place in Indochin
That sounded echos Death and Pain
A rally place for soldiers there
Among the emerald hills and fields
Heard the mortars “Thomp” and “WRAKK”
Beat the paste to mud and blood and rain,
In Ninteen Hundred and Fifty Fow. Yes Sir!
This valley, most unlikely
Caressed the leafed battalions lightly
Settled from the misty clouds,
And the native sons who greeted
From the hills of T’ai and Moi
With sheets of fire from shadows
Levied bloody tolls at early hour.
Yea, in Fifty-Fow, when you was
Ten and shootin’ cats eye on
The ground with dusty knuckles and
A dime yo mama gave for lunch
In Fifty Fow when white men
Locked the gates to
And Docta’ Jones kept two rooms
To wait, Fifty-Fow, Joe B’lieve that?
Well, ‘is battle went for weeks
And months, from first black hours
Of the hell. Weren’t no telling trees
From them who farmed the place before
The generals smiled. Black, wet maggots
Squirming on the carcass of the land,
Each banner sported names of fingers
Of the the breast of Ann Marie
Viets had one called Lonsome Liberty
A sultry break, they called a truce.
Begun with shell shocked soldier
Staggered from the muck, and a meeting on
A floor of skin still hot from killing fire.
A look around for one or two still taking air
Puree of brain and bile and bone.
Once brothers in the march, “C’est mon amie
C’est fin pour vouz, adieu.”
Wez kids in Fifty-Fow when Rudolph laughed
And searched for a friend at yards edge
To ride his ‘wheel’ and sparkle smiles of white
Rudolph was a ‘nigra’ then and you was
White ta win, twas then the Viets rose
In cutting fire a ‘blazing at the fall
Of soiled kepis camped at
Ike was in and word was out,
Commie soldiers in the shouts
Of demagogues and Christian folk
Who feared the loss of all their smoke
Joe, some was real but some was bull
Always is when talk’s politicull.
Then Dulles played that card.
This battle for the points of land
I told you once, fought to the man
Beatris fell, then Gabriel
The wires were cut, “I can’t tell!”
Here they come! Open fire! Fix your blades!
They’ve over run in defilade
Beneath the ground, ‘bout six feet
The surgeons cut trough hot meat.
The groans and stench of blood still wet
Think I need a cigarette!
The morgue was full, another hold
A thousand men, the cross, a chaplain’s bowl
Was awful Joe, in Fifty Fow.
Elain still stood and Ann Marie
When Bigeard, hopeful hero came.
If you moved, you dug like moles
To find a place to fire or shoot your flame.
Days on end Joe. Where was exhaustion
In these men from Notre Dame?
Commanders, broken hearted, to the surgeon went
To seek a touch of Jesus from Grawin.
A moment with the priest, for to confess
Emerged in glow of peace to win.
By the end of March, the Victory
Had faded out at Ann Marie.
Elaine, Huguette and Dominique
Held on to see brave captains seek
A strike on Viets near.
But even then the trenches moved
Close in, could hear the Viet’s pick axe
Hit the earth to them so dear.
“Twas a lovely morn in
Ike took jelly and hot toast, while
He knew and wisely hushed his Chiefs.
The Commie was the Tiger then
Who must be sealed tight in his pen.
Tung used tongs and opened sculls
To cauterize l’corpuscles
Flowing down same as Frogs
The battle’s on boys! Place those logs!
Flies eggs and maggots ‘uld soon deliver
All dead soldiers to the river.
Speckled earth from chutes that lay
Rounded up the scattered slopes
Of weary men not yet fell
All remained was Isabelle
“Lay down your arms defeated ones!
The rest are done! You’ll see your sons
In time. But where’s the wolf Bigeard?”
Now, here’s the thing, I’ll make my point
The news rang out in every joint.
Baseball played into the night
Crackers four and Lookouts two,
I’da walked that player, wouldn’t you?
A poem by Michael Malsbary based on the account of this battle
By Jules Roy, The Battle of Dien Bien Phu,Translated from French by Robert Baldick, Harper & Row, New York, 1965. I wrote this poem in the mid 80s,
imagining two veterans siting on a porch in rockers, one fellow recalling his hell,
told the other about Dien Bien Phu.