Sunday, 20 September 2009

Battle poem

I rode in a lorry with a great many stacked rifles.
I leant against the secured back flap and watched
the darkened landscape running away from me.

The moon was alongside, a breathless pace-keeper,
spectral cannonball on a perfect trajectory.
Cars goose-honked us as we went past them

mistaking us, I suppose, for the Regular Army.
By the time we came over the hill into town the
winter trees had all thrown their arms up in surrender.

The attack, when it began, had that surreal flavour
all night-assaults share. The Guy Fawkes stench
that trailed the wind; the son, the lumière;

and tart contrasts, cool dark, hot brightness:
sudden curled scoops of compacted flame,
starfish flicks of daylight at the ends of rifles.

Darkness brings things to within touching distance,
and simultaneously removes them a great way away.
Darkness is the idiom of the bedroom and

your lover’s breath upon your skin, but also
the medium of those interstellar vastnesses.
These two exactly the same thing, and exactly it,

if you think about it. To the bayonet
every membrane's a hymen. And afterwards
comes an adrenaline dip that's deep enough

for the soldier to sleep like the dead he's made,
hard and long as King Arthur's honour guard.
Dawn's an explosion you can ignore, I find.

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