Chiang's Heat Stroke
Told me about the time he got
Heat stroke, years ago,
In the army, on a blistering hot day,
Marching with pack and rifle
For miles and miles
Round and round an eastern island.
He’d been feeling sick, but
This was the army
So nobody believed it.
Later he had to stop just had
To stop to drink to rest a while,
Just to rest a while, so he
Fell out of file with all these
Bright white spots
Swarming in his vision.
But the PC thought he was
Faking it, yelled at him,
Kicked his shins
And called him a fucking
Lazy lousy bastard
So he got up dazed and
Went on dragging his boots
On a trail through the
Soaking hot jungle.
Later he fell out of line again
And the PC really lost
His temper, raised a rifle butt
To hit him on the head.
The bright white spots exploded,
Burst brilliantly like suns
In his head,
So that everything else in
The world went black.
He couldn't walk couldn't talk
Couldn't think anything except that
This was a stupid place to die
And why couldn't he feel his legs.
They stripped off his uniform,
Poured water over his
Head and chest, slapping his face
Repeatedly so that he wouldn't
Faint, and all this time
He wondered why he couldn’t
Feel his legs.
Someone said, "Don't worry, you'll
Be alright," so many times
He was sure he wasn't going to be alright.
And later, the chaotic dreams of
Flame and ice, metallic gigantic
Dragonfly wings swirling,
As they rushed him by chopper
To the mainland hospital.
You think of this as one of those things.
They happen. The years pass,
And some things about those years Chiang even
Remembers fondly. But now he tells me
About his former PC, and he says,
"I'll never forget him. The lousy bastard."
He raises his voice just a little, with a touch of hate,
repeating the words. “I’ll never forget him.
Lousy bastard.” So matter-of-fact. So clear.
After all this time, he says it so cold and hard
You wouldn’t know how not to believe it.
By Gilbert Koh
QLRS Vol. 2 No. 1 Oct 2002