Saturday, April 26, 2008



He said the only good enemy was a dead one.
He, the Sandhursted, drilled and over-drilled,
Military ack-ack-ademied, red-striped man
With the moustache.

But who was his enemy?
Was he quite sure?

He ordered khaki-coated flesh to breast the hail of iron,
He ordered massed charges against unbroken wire,
He ordered frontal attacks across sticky mud four feet deep
He ordered that his orders should be carried out,
He ordered that if any man retire in dis-order
He should be shot,
He ordered that a man should fight until he was killed.

He said: "We are fighting a war, remember,
You and me and the lot of us.
We are fighting a war."

He said: "When we have killed
More of them than us, we will
Tally and total the fallen,
And then we will know we have won."

They tallied and total the fallen,
And they found that he had killed three times
As many of us as of them.

It was just plain Arithmetic.
A school boy could have told you.

Well, who was his enemy?
Was he quite sure?

(from The Great Prawn War and Other Poems,1982, Denis Kevans,

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