The Leaf Rider

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A Poem By Gerald Alan Ney (With Commentary)

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 glistening
At first burst banished by bullets and blood.
Whither the windhover,
Above tangled green gliding, soaring
The riders' glance sees not seeing
The hurricane, the land overturning
Their metal steeds' clacking racket calling
So on down to the great grass jumping
To tree line on tree line charging
And always some never more moving
And some bodies for a time limping
While many minds and hearts hurt worse than they
Yet new faces old places ever filling
Steady as the monsoon rain's drumming
As regular as its arrival
The long hot months into years fading
Till they all were gone.

    *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

So say men over a shot and beer drinking
No knights in armor shining
Who once were lads in the summer grinning
And did their job of fighting
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]

Dear Sirs:

    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 conversationtriggered 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.

Andrew, 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.