In the marshy wald von Teutoburg
Varus took his men
To quell a slight rebellion
Well, so it seemed to them.
Three legions Varus took with him
Anno domini nine.
The woodland dense, so swampy
That they had to march in line.
And with him rode Arminius
Chief of the Cherusci.
Equestrian, citizen with respect,
A knight of Rome was he.
This Arminius whom Rome trusted,
He’d served her well for many years,
Went forth to lay an ambush
That left Caesar shedding tears.
Hampered by the close terrain.
Drenched through and through by pouring rain.
The legionnaires, unknowing snared
By vengeful Gauls who, long prepared,
Three legions with their eagles high.
Pushing through to make their way,
As rain pours down from lowering sky
And in the gloom those legions die.
Sleep laden eyes of weary Sun,
Whose lidded shadows tip the night,
While water gently lips the shore
And swoops the owl in whispering flight;
Small, twitching nostrils quest the air
And Daytime slides from out of sight.
Doodling with words to see what results.
Old soldiers never die,
They just keep on marching by,
In ***** or by the right,
Their legions prove a wondrous sight
When viewed in memory.
But looking on with memory,
Shows only what we want to see.
And while illuminating youth,
It hides from us the actual truth,
It never shows the blood, the fear,
It obfuscates the anguished tear,
And as those shadows march on by,
Do we forget they had to die – to live
Keswick barracks Adelaide 2017
Once was a pussycat and an owl
Who went to sea in a boat.
But wind and wave and weather so foul,
And a boat without oars that left cat and owl
Without fur or feather, flannel or towel,
And then Nighttime swooped with an awful howl
And the boat refused to float.
I mean what does one do?
Time Expired and thus Unfettered
Like dusty files unopened on their shelves - serene and calm;
Behind locked doors these memories of war lived in my mind.
Distant images, long archived, evolved in Vietnam
But buried ‘neath the present of a very different kind.
But now those dusty files have tumbled to the ground.
Upended by the vigour of this fine new freedom I have found.
Without the shackles of that other life I find
The memories fresh and sometimes pleasant to my mind.
And so I take them up and dust them off these files long hidden.
Peruse each ancient, tattered memory page by page.
And let their content to my mind project unbidden
The flickering image of a long lost distant, youthful age.
And with these verses I have made for you, shaped by my pen, a light.
That you too might view the shadowed contents of my new found files.
Described between the lines of each is what it was to fight
A war, the grim visage of which was seldom wreathed with smiles.
But I conjure you look closely at these careful, recent woven lines of mine.
This tapestry conceals ideas that oft’ belie the written word.
Look underneath to seek the reason why my thoughts sometimes repine
Against a patterned camouflage which sometimes makes them seem absurd
Chimerical these hidden images that tumble on the edge of time?
Yes, but if you use the mirror of your own reality to construe,
To grasp the presence of that conflict these days almost always called a crime
Then might you judge these portions that I gladly offer you.
Written in 1988 when suddenly I realised that no longer being a soldier I could speak my mind.
Your a fool if you think that your men won't know
When you're lazy not zealous, you see.
For they then might decide that it’s best not to go
With you wherever might be.
Service loyalty extends both up and down.
“Long Khan Province, 10 July 1969
The contact report, it stated..."
I remember Ray Kermode at Woodside.
He was sitting on the bed next to mine,
Sewing buttons on his shirt and wincing
At my *****, *****, song.
It was not so much the singing (which was loud)
But the stupid, foul, profanity which he hated.
Nowadays, I think I've changed but Ray hasn't;
Ray can't, he's dead.
And you will never, ever put to right that wrong,
But needs must carry it forever
With you in your head.