The Sentry

The wind is crisp, it blows from the West,
and the moon slips behind a cloud.
It is 4.45 as I rise half alive, feet numb,
fingers numb, and the barrel of
my rifle a dark silhouette against
the grey dawn sky. Duty!
Tussock cold and wet about my legs,
webbing tight about my waist, boots
stumbling blindly towards the machine gun post.
Test the phone, check the gun,
turn up the collar of my combat jacket, back
resting against the wet clay walls
of the pit. One hour till dawn.

Eyes blur, mind wanders, thoughts of home,
wife and kids; water bottle
presses against my back, knees draw up,
helmet and head resting between them for warmth.
Time drags, mind plays tricks on my vision,
heaven would be a warm bed or a
hot cup of coffee. Half hour till dawn,
test the phone.

Dawn nears, hills take shape, trees take shape,
to my front is the back
menacing shadow of a field gun;
lethal against the skyline.
The tannoy clicks, the phone rings, "Stand To!"
is quietly passed by word of
mouth, human shapes move quietly,
each in the direction of its' own slit
trench. Silence.

Experience shows this to be the most likely
time for an attack.
Time lapses, nothing moves,
save only the chill wind blowing gently through the
tussock. Silence.
Birds break into song, the first rays of the
new dawn sun burst forth
spreading warmth and life into
everything it reaches out and touches; and
for the Regiment another day begins. "Stand Down!"

©Mike Subritzky
FSB Westlawn