Two Poems from Basic Training

Two Poems from Basic Training

Pay days come and pay days go,
But what is there I have to show?
For all the twenty-one I earn
There is no part I can discern
To tell me what my ratings are;
One glass of beer upon the bar,
One try at hot links with the bones
Show no moss grows on rolling stones.
Repay my thoughtful friends who were
So loose with dough, at twenty per,
The PX checks have come and gone
Which leaves me yet more overdrawn
Except for one small bit of change
With which I think to try my range
And sit me to a friendly game
Of cut-throat stud, not quite the same
As never having played at all
For now there is no hope to stall
The truth of that so ancient saying:
are forever paying!”

In olden days the sarge was tough,
And little yardbirds had it rough;
For when it was their wont to play,
The Old Man felt it time to bray
And hold them in their lines so straight–
Chin in, chest out–it was their fate
To heel the line and guide it right,
With drill and dress from morn to night.

But now our sarge is lean and lank
And loose and limber in the shank,
His manner mild, his voice so sweet,
Just like a mother nanny’s bleat.
Each morning ere the night is done
He comes and wakes us every one
With gentle tap and whispered word–
The sleepy rookies’ morning bird.

Oh, sarge who was my father’s fright,
That you should be my shining light
In teaching me what I should know;
The rifle sling, the cadence slow,
What time to go to bed at night,
And that I shouldn’t come home tight.
The brood of chicks, the doting hen.
Don’t mind me, Sarge, with us “you’re in!”

— Grady L. McMurtry

Note: Undated, but probably written in late 1942 or early 1943.

Originally published in Thelema Lodge Calendar, August 1991