The Outlying Piquet

by | Jan 1, 2006 | Poetry | 0 comments

Tanks at night are in defensive leaguer,
Where in close ranks we guard each other’s backs.
Guns dipped low and each one pointing outward,
Like covered wagon circles, but a square.

The echelon moves slowly through the lines,
Brings bread and fuel, and Compo ration packs
“How many cans?” In husky whisper low.
And thirty cans are passed from truck to tank.

One man guarding, two men working, sweating,
And one man gone to hear the next day’s plan.
Fuel to pour, guns to clean, and oil to check,
Food to heat, find time to eat, and make a brew.

Then I, sent out to man the piquet line
One hundred metres crawling softly out,
Lay in the sand and watched the shadows play.
Each dune and piece of scrub appeared alive.

The moonlight then revealed to me, a shape,
An Arab man moved slowly ‘cross my flank,
And on his back there was a drainpipe strapped.
By light of moon, it seemed just that to me.

My heart beat strong and loud, and louder still,
He paused, and turning slowly looked my way.
His left hand rose and pointed palm at me.
Then laughing softly, calmly walked away.

My Verey light arced high into the sky,
And cast a crimson glow upon the dunes.
Shouts from the leaguer. Orders for stand-to.
A scout-car raced across to where I lay.

A Subaltern wrote down what I had seen.
Patrols were sent to find the laughing man.
They found a trail of footprints in the sand,
Which faded out where sand gave way to rock.

The Major said, that I had done my duty,
My troop mates said, that I’d been in a dream,
The squadron clerk wrote up this brief report,
“A contact with insurgent, unconfirmed.”


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