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The images are still all there
amongst the smoke and cordite mist
upon a hill of shattered trees,
of a man kneeling there in agony
on mud-stained knees;
a steel helmet careless thrown
upon the gaping ground,
the bend of his young back
protecting what was left of his friend,
bleeding quietly to death
beneath his helpless hands.

And, further down the hill
the Padre crawling up
armed only with hope,
and the cup of the last rites,
gasping in the extremity
of his exhaustion,
holding out the battered goblet
and willing the gap to close -
but not quite making it.
The black clad sniper smiling
at the foolishness of Christianity
and closing his smoking bolt,
ready for the next sacrifice.

And the man on the hill still up there
pushing hard with vein necked strength
against the first field dressing,
trying to stem the gouting blood,
guttering down from the awful wound
to mix at last with the dregs
of the fallen cup.

The smoking fingers of the trees
top shattered and shrapnel gutted,
pointing the way to the home-going
of his friend, now pale and still
beneath the shield of his body -
bending down to give the final moment of solace
and in the unwavering sights of the sniper
laying down his own life.

And to a man the marines
of Khe Sanh, fixed bayonets,
and the sniper high on the hill
knew that the fallen cup
would be replenished with his blood,
as he closed his eyes in terror
at the dreadful rage
reflected in the eyes
of the charging men.

John A. Moller
Whiskey Two Company RNZIR


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