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STAND TO

"Stand To", signalled quietly -
two tongue clicks bouncing off
the long night-dry palette
men rolling softly from their groundsheets
amongst the velvet dark, still formless trees.

Long practised
reaching for their bedmates
the loaded rifles
always close in the liquid darkness -
men walking quietly on the leaf mould
to their shell-scrapes with their boots still laced
and faces painted green from the morning
of yesterday's violence.

Slithering with economy of effort
into the rapidly dug trench
and cursing the red laterite dust
curling up from the hot ground -
with the wireless squelch and volume
turned down in the moment
of the waiting time.

In the sixty minutes of anxiety
before first light remembering
all the days of innocent youth
and feeling the awful power
of the claymore mines waiting
omnipotent with death's quick rush
upon the track.

Hearing the touch of the first light
and the sound of insect legions calling
in greeting to the new day
and cursing the leeches clustered
like obscene bunches of grapes
in armpit and groin.

Startled momentarily by the howler monkeys,
lost babies crying in the far distance
and thankful for the substance and form
of the trees as the sun kissed their tops
and nothing moved upon the track.

Clearing patrol and sentries out,
a hot sweet brew and gear repacked
and mines are taken from the track
as ghostly through the trees you go
no sign of passing from your boots
by bamboo stands and buttressed roots.

John A. Moller
Whiskey Two Company RNZIR

 

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