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The Ideal War


We would count our boys into war
After their six week basic training

Just so we can tick the box
     Just so they can play soldiers
          Just so they can tell their grandkids they played soldiers

And tasted mud
And felt the burn
Of old rope
And the bone-chilling
Damp pushing past
Knock-kneed
Blind-Thirsty
From the salt
sweat brass
blood on warm days
And knowing firsthand
The science of acid
Lactating screaming joints
And weeping having stabbed
The dummy
Fixed bayonet
Up through the throat
For fear of the need to practice

Then the call-up
Heading for enemy shores
Pressing sweat into their bibles
Trembling away their training
The world a swinging mirror
But in the distance they see

Blue Yellow Red Green
       Blue Yellow Red Green
              Blue Yellow Red Green

Not a beach
Of sand or pebbles
But of dots laid out in formation
An expectant enemy next to each mat
And holding a name
Of their opposite number
As if in the arrivals lounge
Waiting
Muttering

Twister
    Twister
         Twister

A mat and a spinner

And in row
    After row
        After row

The enemy limbering up

And a little later
Counting the same number back
“Zero losses, sir.”
Each clutching a reminder of their life on the front

A certificate for the winner
   A certificate for the runner up
       A certificate for those who just wanted to watch

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