Entry - MAG Poetry Prize 2010

Sleep Dear Soldier

by Linda Smith

Feet squelched tiredly in mud.  Toes and fingers icy cold. 
Steamy breath escaped the warm womb of congested lungs.
The date?  The year?  Of no consequence!
Numbed minds searched for answers while time evaporated,
along with dignity, in the stark reality of war.
Night trespassed greedily, swallowing storm clouds
on a path as dark as falling death allowed.
His eyes, amongst a century of others, red rimmed
with fatigue and despair, sought a way forward, to sanity, to home. 
Blasts sent sea-less divers to the ground nearby, the sound absorbed
in a sleep deprived, woolly mind, oblivious to external influences.
They were going home, he didn’t celebrate when told,
wondered had he fixed the leaky tap before he left.
What was that song?  It’s a long way to somewhere! 
He tiredly reached into the dark recesses of a foggy brain,
suddenly it was important he remember, the answer
floated teasingly on the edge of his mind before
drifting out of his grasp into the cold night. 
In his peripheral vision it struck him momentarily
two divers had not risen.  At least they
are getting their sleep!  He heard a manic giggle,
turned to locate it, eyes stared at him. 
Struggling to keep eyelids open, he chased distorted
shadows illuminated carnage cast before them,
head was home if he could reach it.  Dodge
cracks in the pavement, step on one you’d
fall into a deep pit.  What’s the time Mr Wolf?
Tears spilled unknowingly onto weather chapped lips.
Teacher rapped his knuckles, not fair, it wasn’t him.
He rubbed his nose, frozen fingers trying to erase
the stench of sulphur and death from icy nostrils,
eyes darting back and forth in confusion.
Where was his wife?  Why wasn’t she there? 
He didn’t hear the engines as harbingers of doom
were released from pregnant bellies, didn’t hear
as air whistled furiously in protest at intrusion into its space,
nor did he hear the urgent shouts of colleagues to take cover, 
his busy mind trying to shake off the insanity of fatigue.
A smile lit his face momentarily as he saw her in the
shadows, he buckled into her outstretched
arms and at last - he slept!

Added: 26.04.2010