Saturday, 27 September 2014

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off To Work We Go.


There is a romantic image of troops setting off to war in which marching men pass through cheering crowds being bombarded with well-wishes and flowers.

In my experience departures on Ops were more likely to be a lonely, thought filled, walk in the middle of the night. If the Quartermaster had done his job correctly he would have indented for cold and wet weather to maximise the benefit!

The walk would be followed by brief periods of frenetic activity interspersed with a lot of hanging around, soldiers call this; 'Rush to Wait'.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off To Work We Go.

He silences the alarm before she digs him in the ribs,
dresses swiftly in the dark and creeps downstairs
taking care to avoid the squeaky stair.
Quietly he steps into the cool nocturnal gloom.
His breath hangs on the chill night air.
With practiced ease he swings the Bergen to his back.
Turns a key in the lock and pauses,
eyes glued to the unlit glass
mind focused on the sleeping heads inside.
He turns, shrugs and fades into the shadows;
absorbed by the night.
All that betrays his presence
is the measured sound of boots upon the road.
Other humpbacked figures appear and disappear
fading in and out of light cones
cast by lamps which illuminate
coils of razor wire on the fence top
as it runs on in to the mist.
At the barrier he shows his ID and joins the throng.
Rush to wait......
Time ticks past, an hour in her arms;
lost.
He knows not when, or if,
he will hold her again.
Name called, he boards the bus,
fills from the back, sits, eyes closed,
sleep envelopes
a warrior off to war.

John Carré Buchanan
12 September 2014




This poem is linked to Poets United.

40 comments:

  1. Splendid poem, John, exposing a element of soldiery that few of us focus on: a glimpse behind the scenes, so to speak. Very visual and atmospheric too, which I like. Also thought provoking in these troubled times.

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    1. Richard, thank you for your kind words.

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  2. This one really got the hairs on the back of the neck - why did we always have to do this when it was cold, misty and 0300 - excellent John!

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    1. Thanks Hovis, glad it was not just me this happened to.

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  3. When I grew up we still had military service, no real war but a year of training, a year of leaving home. I can very much relate to the mood and the constant waiting... there is also a sense of being alone even when you're standing shoulder to shoulder

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    1. Hi Brudberg, thanks for your comment. I always found the waiting hardest.

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  4. Rush to wait.. a wonderful description of the reality of going off to war in these times. However, I just wish there was no need in the world for any one to have to go off to war...anywhere.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Thotpurge, that would be fantastic, I agree.

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    1. Hi Jae, Thanks for your comment and there was I thinking I'd penned a poem ;-)

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  6. A warrior off to war. I like this story/poem of yours. Yes, my Uncle was in the military before and he told almost the same story about his mornings while in it. Amazing write!

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  7. This is such a beautifully haunting poem ❤️ loved hearing you read it out loud ❤️

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    1. Hi Sanaa, thank you. I am particularly pleased that you liked the audio.

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  8. A telling piece John and I'd call it powerfully poetic too... With Best Wishes - not sure that I've read you before? But will be back for more...

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    1. Thanks Scotthastiepoet, feel free to peruse my blog at your leisure!

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  9. Great prose. I am wondering if the use of id instead of ID is meant?

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    1. Hi Paul, thanks for your comment. Oops it should have been ID.

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    2. I thought the lower case was intentional, sort of symbolic, as if, minimizing one's true identity. In either case the poem is well executed. I wonder what it might feel like marching through a crowd knowing not if you would ever return? It made me feel weepy for the unknown.

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    3. Truedessa, So sorry, I accidentally deleted your comment - fat fingers on an Ipad. The truth is I put id because it was short of 'identification' and if I had used the word would have been lower case. When I checked my dictionary it suggested it should be ID. I was a bit surprised having always used id but on reflection I decided to go with ID. Thanks for your comment.

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  10. Such impact in his not knowing if he will hold her again.....sleepily heading off to war.

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    1. Hi Sherry, it's so true, no one ever really knows! The sleeping is one of the skills a soldier learns, eat, drink and sleep whenever you get the opportunity, you never know when your next meal, drink or sleep might be. Thanks for your comment.

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  11. Wow its like viewing a scene from a movie, only this from you is reality. Thanks for your soulful share.

    Happy you dropped by my Sunday Standard today. The birds on my post are Scarlet Ibis, they are on our National Coat of Arms

    much love...

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment Gillena.

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  12. Such a descriptive piece ... and a view of military life well presented. We need to be reminded. Thank you.

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    1. Hi Indybev, thank you for your kind comment.

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    1. Hi Ayala, thank you so much for your kind comment.

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  14. I feel the sadness in this walk, John. I find it very relevant...and appreciated all of the little details you added to make the experience come alive.

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    1. Hi Mary, Thank you for your comment, I am glad I managed to bring it to life for you.

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  15. Thank you for reminding me of what men sacrifice when going off to war. We owe our veterans and soldiers everything.

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    1. Hi Bekkie, thank you for your kind comment and your support of veterans and service personnel.

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  16. This so honest and remarkable....not the romanticized version but what a soldier feels as he leaves his loved ones....thank you for showing us the reality of war and military life.

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    1. Hi Donna, thank you for your comment. I am glad that I managed to give you an insight into the one aspect of service life.

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  17. Well told and unfolded moment. I enjoyed even before the truth of it all came out.

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    1. Hi Martin, thank you for your kind comment, I am glad you enjoyed the poem.

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  18. A powerful and eloquent piece - wonderfully rendered - with an achingly tender close. Awesome writing, John. My Dad wrote poetry during WWII (he landed on Normandy) and some of his work was published in Canadian Service magazines. Poetry written by soldiers is a very big deal in Canada, even to this day. I have read a fair bit of it, and this (to my mind) ranks with some of the very best.

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    1. Hi Wendy, Thank you for your kind comment, I too like reading poetry written by service personnel and people who have experience of war, it is often very powerful, your compliment means a great deal to me, thank you.

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  19. well written and a wonderful read.
    ZQ

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    1. Hi ZQ, thank you for your kind comment, it is very much appreciated. I am glad you enjoyed the poem.

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