When I was Nine

by | Nov 28, 2008 | Poetry | 0 comments

When I was nine
I had a .303 rifle,
a real one with wooden stock
metal trigger and webbing sling.

The bullets, unfortunately,
were imaginary – but we had
plenty of ammo, Ricky and I,
enough to get the job done.

It was the best day
of my child-hood
playing War Games

in the car park.
though I didn’t know it then,

I didn’t know there are scales
to be balanced,

lessons to be learned.

Nine’s as good an age as any,
I suppose,
to poke your head out of childhood.

I didn’t know it then,

even though
I shot 50 Jerries
in half an hour,

wiped out three
machine gun nests
with grenades

and stopped the invasion
single handed …..

well my friend Rickie
helped a bit,
but not too much
he didn’t have a 303
only a stick

but even so he captured
Rommel all by himself.

General Montgomery
was feeling unwell that day
and said ‘only Finn will do,
it’s got to be him’

so they parachuted me in
to take over and save
the Eighth Army

which I duly did.
Me and my 303.

We played all day
and won the War
a hundred times over

It was the best day of my childhood
until the scales swung in the balance,
too much fun, too much joy –
has to be paid for you know

and that’s when they told me my dog was dead,

knocked down on the road below.
Sparky, my black and white Spaniel.
I’d loved him even when he jumped
in the sewerage works

and I was ready to follow
at the drop of a catapult

until he came out and chased
us all up a tree, only wanting to shake
himself and say hello.

You know how dogs are.

I wouldn’t let him play that day,
no War Games for him
I wanted all the glory to myself

Me and my 303

so he went out hunting,
out on the road

and left me to win the war.
He had other battles to fight
in places far away
where nine year olds can’t follow.

It was the best day
of my childhood
until I found out
that death is real

and love
won’t hold it back,
even with a 303.

I never played War Games
after that, if Monty called
I wasn’t home and he was on his own.

My .303 became a dusty
relic down in the cellar
plaything for mice and home for spiders
who fought their own wars.

My next dog was an Airedale
called Bob, he was a real bruiser
but I never quite loved him the same
and was always careful
not to tip the scales with too much joy.

I moved on from Jerries and Tommies,
transferred allegiance to Journey into Space,
You have to grow up after all.


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