Anything but Anthrax

Shaken roughly awake
and passed the starlight scope.
I quietly stumble out of my tent
sweating from another African night.
No torches, only total darkness,
rifle close, ammo and webbing on, then quietly clip the belt.
Boots on, pull the lace through the top dome,
and tuck the excess into the boot top.

Dark night and orange orb of a setting moon
silhouettes an ancient Baobab tree.
Soft footfalls to the machine gun
and Peter McArthur, the gunner hidden in the gloom.

We don't talk, no requirement,
both absorbed in personal thoughts.
I scan the bush with the starlight
and it picks up only fat, long eared rabbits.

The pain begins about then,
slowly at first, numbing toes, arches and heels.
Ashworth is down with suspected Anthrax
so I try not to focus on the pain. His pain.

By dawns early light, so much pain
but I continue to operate the starlight.
Murky green television images
come through of a family of wild African dogs.

The walk through camp for Stand-To eases the pain
but only until I return and sit behind the gun again.
It is bad enough being in a war zone,
but to die of Anthrax.there is no bloody justice.

What will go on my tombstone???
Goodness Lord, why did I go to that briefing.
"Anthrax is endemic to the Region."

We are relieved after breakfast
and I limp and stumble into the hospital tent.
Frightened, fearful, and angry,
thinking only the worst.

Doc Shaw greets me in Matabele
"Sala bu Nani Comrade!"
I tell him about my swollen feet,
I also confide that I think it's Anthrax.

He looks at me and laughs,
points at my feet as I slump into a chair.
He tells me that I look like shit and then
laughs again and asks me if my mother dressed me.

I feel tired and drained after a long night on stagg,
and as I follow his gaze downward I notice my
combat boots are laced up tightly, and on the wrong feet.
So much for bloody Anthrax!

©Mike Subritzky
02 October 2002