by Cpl. Robert Lin Cook
Jan 1942–Sep 1945

 When I was young & green
and a United States Marine,
I was assigned a solitary chore.
It was the custom then
and an ordinary sin
to make a mess man
from an ordinary guy.

Well, I didn’t have no rank
and as common as a plank
so they felt no compunction
To their deed.

So on a morning early
afore the sun did rise,
I found myself
in the mess hall,
don’tcha know?
 I faced that ol’ mess sergeant
who looked meaner
than a junkyard dog.
He faced me with a scowl
that made me almost howl
in protest of my present

I was instructed
in a very sober way
to fill the GI cans
with water hot that
was for cleaning
on the spot.
One was for sudsing,
one was for rinsing
and one to make sure
all was clean.

Then I had the pleasure,
wrong by any measure,
of setting up the chow line
in a row.

There were 4 long tables,
all of which were able
to hold all the grub
to be bestowed.

I was placed there
with a ladle with
which I was able
to pile on taters
to the sky.

When chow was over
and the serving
put away,
I thought I had it made
for the day but
I was prevailed
upon to stay.
They gave me a mop
with instruction not to stop
‘til I had the floor
a brighter shade.

I was much put out
but I could not shout
though I was
much dismayed.
So I finished the job
like a Navy swab and
finally went on my way.

That was my first day
and I’m here to say
there were many
more to endure
so I tied into the job
with a little sob and
endured the misery
of it all.
Semper Fi!

*     *     *
The author: Robert Lin Cook served with Regimental Weapons Co. (2d-2d) from 1942–44, at Guadalcanal and Tarawa during a 33-month overseas tour.

>> Poetry Page
>> Memoir Page
What A Mess