Act of War

by Alan Porter

All last week in scrubland
the major shouted his drill:
we ate from tin cans, slept rough.
Those damn blanks he fired hurt;
his meagre rations never satisfied;
all that crawling, running, jumping
left you wrecked, cold, dirty, tired.

It did the job, I guess: suggested
hardship, deprivation. I need to draw
on that – feel the muscle-ache, the boil
he riled in us by constant barrage.

When that clapperboard calls action,
I’ll hear his cursing roar and make it real.
The fear and panic I felt once
reeling in sweat at the back of a bus;
convincing fear, but held in check:
commanding men and my emotions.

Intent, directed by imperatives.
The din and thud of metal ripping metal;
the pistol spurt of arterial blood.
I need to keep shouting orders:
“secure the beachhead”, contain the fear
and move, keep moving, focus.

Induce adrenalin, believe it’s real:
the silicone, latex rubber, Ecoflux,
a ruby-red gel, prosthetic limbs,
the rigged props, controlled explosives.
They’ll do the morphing and warping later:
play with pixels in computer graphics.

I must be the captain. The war hero.
I’ve done my research. Life and death.
Can I fear death? Its violent immediacy?
And war? What do I know of war?