Thursday, 21 March 2013

A Soldier’s Dawn (Sparrow’s Fart )

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Soldiers in the British Army know the dawn as ‘Sparrow’s’ short for ‘Sparrow’s Fart’. I guess the concept of the birds waking up scratching their bums and making their first utterance really appealed to the soldier’s sense of humour.

One thing is for certain, at that time in the morning the only things that seemed to be awake were the birds, soldiers and the occasional deer.

The poem below refers to a shell scrape which is a shallow trench designed to give its occupant a degree of protection from shrapnel and bullets should the location come under fire. In this instance the scrape is covered with a basha which is a very low shelter made out of a poncho stretched between two trees. The fact that the soldier is in a shell scrape indicates that it is in a temporary location. I hope you enjoy the poem.

A Soldier’s Dawn (Sparrow’s Fart )

The occasional sharp rattle
as droplets fall on the poncho
from the invisible branch above
prevent him from sleeping.

Lying in a shallow shell-scrape,
beneath a low slung basha
cold, tired and awake,
his mind fills the pitch black space.

Low cloud obscures moon and star light
and creates a pure darkness,
which, having no horizon,
becomes infinite.

Time passes slowly,
there’s an imperceptible change,
the darkness has a different quality
an air of expectation.

Gradually a slither of grey
creeps skyward in the East,
faint shapes loom from the dark
and life begins to stir.

A lone bird chirps to welcome the new day
and then, from every tree top
the dawn chorus erupts
as if it were nature’s call to prayer.

John Carré Buchanan
21 March 2013

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