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Jim Hogue will be my guest Tuesday, August 14th, 9-11 pm CT on 9/11 and Empire radio, http://wtprn.com. He'll read this kick-ass take-no-prisoners poem on the air. By the way, I just emailed this to 2,000 firefighters. If you read it to the end you'll see why.

Kevin Barrett 

http://www.ladder5.org/


The Ballad of Ladder Five ©


By James Roland Hogue
Copyright 2003 James R. Hogue

Illustrations by Rick Powell

 

On the tenth of September they passed the brew,

They passed the cards and smokes.

“Deuces to open,” he barked to the crew,

And he dealt the cards and the jokes.

 

“What d'ya know's got four legs and an arm?”

“I dunno what?” “A pit bull,” he laughed.

“What chills beer, toasts bread, and lays eggs on a farm?”

“Close the door, will ya Phil? There's a draft.”

 

And then the lieutenant waltzed in through the door.

“Kindly deal me in, girls, if you please.”

He hung up his coat and he strode ‘cross the floor.

“How you been, number one, how's the squeeze?”

 

“Alright, Phil, how's yours?” “She's alright ‘bout the same.”

“Glad to hear it.” “Here, Joe, have a beer.”

“Yea I will. Thank you, Pete. What's up, Jack? What's the game?”

“Five card draw, nothing wild. Put it here.”

 

They finished the hand and they dealt Joe his due,

And they settled in for the night.

Mike repeated the riddle that nobody knew,

Least nobody'd got it right.

 

“Lays eggs on a farm, makes toast, chills beer.”

“Jacks open.” “I've got it,” said Pat,

“A chicken, a toaster, a frig.” “Here Here!”

Said Joe, “I'll drink to that.”

 

The men played on till they saw the sun

And heard the morning knell,

But the sleep they wanted was overrun

By a summons into hell.

Now a job's a job and a man's a man

And a hero's just the same.

So it is with Patrick H. McGahan

And for too many more to name.

The firefighters rushed to the blazing crime

Impelled by guts and heart

To rescue the victims and slug through the grime,

But the buildings fell apart.

 

The towers exploded and trembled and dropped

And shook the city's core,

While a rolling wave of concrete stopped

The firemen evermore.

 

And still more sawed and fought and clawed

Through the crumbling twisted pyre;

They climbed and dug and heaved and gnawed

And battled through the fire.

 

Still hundreds cried out from the gloom

And hundreds more replied,

And hundreds charged into the tomb

Where hundreds fought and died.

 

And when the deadly work was done,

Barbarity addressed,

Three forty three had lost and won

And staggered to their rest.

 

Later the comrades of the men

Who'd battled the blazing towers

Whispered a faltering amen

Among the funeral flowers.

 

With them knelt ten thousand more

Who prayed in awe and sorrow

For the losses they too bore

Of tomorrow and tomorrow.

Towers to the sun turned igneous,

Fire and vapor and ash,

Some dare call it “treasonous,”

Others merely “rash.”

 

But truth out of chaos and festering lies

Will make itself a world.

The rotten, when shaken, crumbles and dies,

Leaving liberty unfurled.

 

Great was the indisputable fact

(And to that fact they clung)

Buried by years of habit and tact,

They wrenched it from the dung.

 

They wrenched it from the senators,

They wrenched it from the press,

From the judges and the governors

And the rest of the noblesse.
 

They wrenched it from the corpulent

The eminent and the great,

They wrenched it from the insolent,

They wrenched it from the state.

They wrenched it from the excrement

On the oval office floor,

The part time White House resident,

The unelected whore.

They held it high for all to see

Like a sword on glory's field,

They waved our flag of liberty

And justice unconcealed.
 

To all fourteen thousand they sent out alarms,

To Manhattan and Brooklyn and Queens ,

Staten Island , the Bronx : all brothers in arms,

And they started their mighty machines.

 

Ladder, Engine and Rescue received the brief,

Battalion and Group and Division,

Chaplain and pumper and driver and chief

Prepared for the fatal incision.

 

Soon the rumbling battalions of fire engines forming

A hundred thousand strong

Entered the capitol, the red ranks storming,

To cries from a fiery throng.


Ladder Five was the first. It crashed through the gate

And was followed by fifty more:

Daggers aimed at the White House to decapitate

The regime, and to settle the score.


From the ladders extended arose such a clatter

It deafened the dwellers inside.

They sprang from their seats to see what was the matter,

But, oh, ‘twas a vengeful tide.


It poured in the windows, it flooded the doors

And washed over the rooftops besides;

It crashed through the portico onto the floors

And lifted the open mouthed guides.

It broke through the west wing by God above blest wing,

The wing where the president shivered.

It was now the arrest wing by firemen possessed wing,

The wing where the writ was delivered.


Came the liberal senators all in a row,

“It's the firemen! Let's give ‘em a cheer!”

“You can save your breath princes. Book ‘em, Joe.

They're as guilty as anyone here.”


“We the rabble arrest you in the name of the law,

You in your bucket of slime,

Your protection's expired; stick that in your craw.

You're done. You're outta time.”

Fourteen thousand firefighters lined up to draw lots

With captains and chiefs and lieutenants,

For the chance to draw one of the five hundred slots

To cull some of Washington 's tenants.


The first of the winners was Patrick McGahan

From Ladder Number Five,

Such a thunderous cheer there went up for the man,

For the hero who came back alive.


They chose four hundred and ninety nine more,

Fell executioners all:

Headsmen who lusted to even the score

And to see the Empire fall.


They sharpened their axes to cut off the heads

Of the heirs of the brightest and best,

Who had sent us to rescue the gooks from the reds

In a ballad of East and West.


Judges and generals were on the list

With nodding politicians,

And media whores who'd never be missed

With cabinet patricians.

Now Patrick now William now Dennis now Jim

Now Teddy now Hillary and Dick,

On Johnny on Bernie on Nancy on Tim

On Joseph on Thomas and Nick.


“You'll be tried with the others. How do you plead?

Did they hold a gun to your head?

Were you following orders? Did you watch us bleed?

Or were you just misled?”


The trials are over. The verdicts are in.

The Reckoning is nigh.

The firemen wait in tumult and din

To deliver a fatal reply


To the traitors carried in ghostly carts

Who weep and pray and yield.

“Let the poison flow from their worthless hearts

Through the ruts in a muddy field.”


The first of five hundred is dragged from the dock

To say his last farewell.

“Meet Patrick McGahan. Put your head on the block,

And then you can go to hell.”


McGahan steps up in his spit-shined shoes

And places his axe on the stand.

He takes up a stance in his best dress blues

And he grins as he spits on his hand,


Saying, “Prisoner, come forth and meet your doom,

The bell begins to toll.

Here is the block, and there's your tomb.

Lord have mercy on your soul.”



He lifts his axe and he swings it back

And then he drives it through.

It lands with a frightening echoing crack.

McGahan has his due.

 

One by one each rolling head

Drops in a gruesome sac.

One by one are the tumbrels led

Along the deathly track.

Of advisors there are four,

Of diplomats eleven,

Of judges are there twenty more,

Of generals there are seven.


Of chaplains there is only one,

Of senators three score,

Of corporate heads (forgive the pun)

We chop off sixty four.



The media loses twenty two,

The Bureau drops a straight.

The spooks are missing quite a few,

The inner circle, eight.


Two hundred and eighty six that leaves,

Assorted strains of fungus . . .

Bagmen, beggarmen, liars and thieves,

Deduct them from the congress.

Now the deeds are almost done,

The grass is a bloody brown.

Bound in the tumbrel bides but one

In a world turned upside down.


Up steps the last fireman who barks, “Look alive!

Fetch me one Patrick McGahan!

This one's for you Pat and Ladder Five.

Finish it where you began.”


Now from the gladdened multitude

Goes up a joyous yell,

A cheer of hope and gratitude

That bounds across the dell.


It strikes upon the hillside and

Rebounds across the land,

For ‘tis Patrick H. McGahan

Advancing to the stand.


McGahan, he pierces the beady eyed rat

With a stare that is ardent and cold.

He puts down his axe and he says, “Fancy that,

A gallon of liquid gold.”


He opens the can of the precious stuff.

On the prisoner's head it pours,

“Y'all say ‘when' when you git enough.

You wanted it. It's yours.”


McGahan strikes a match and watches the flame,

“I'll tell you a thing or two:

Empire is a risky game.

Or so it is for you.


But I'll blow out the match because it is

A fireman that I am.

The fate of the others shall be his,

But first I'll have a dram


For Jack and Pete and Phil and Joe

And all of our fallen friends,

To all the soldiers friend and foe

And thus our story ends.”

 

With a strong right arm he throws a shot

Of Irish down the hatch,

Then he grabs his axe to dispatch the rot.

The head he doth detach.


Now a job's a job and a man's a man

And a hero's just the same.

So it is for Patrick H. McGahan

And for too many more to name.
 

 

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