night manoeuvres

    (Dante, Inferno, canto I)

    In the middle of our march, in thick rain
    A halt was called; the proper path
    Was missing - we'd have to backtrack again

    Through the thick undergrowth
    In this dark? Sheer suicide, someone said.
    But it'd been done before. So we set forth

    File formation, two rows, staggered, three-a-side
    Stumbled through trees, dogged as the rainwater
    That found its way down, around, through, under, inside

    Everywhere, the stench of toil, bruising halter
    Of hard knocks, the jig and jangling
    Futile water canteen at the kidneys. The patter

    Of sky sap and tree spit, mingling
    With the mud-caked wax of our boots
    Slated our progress, sidling

    On greased ground , stiff tree roots
    Caltrop twigs, the plosive mine
    Of a stark stump, sudden slope, mud-suck in cahoots

    With the other side, strangling vine
    Played enemy tentacle with us, dragging us down
    Into the Discipline

    Of Twilight - no naked light, men.  We were on our own.
    How had we come to this place
    The chill and night steeping into bone?

    Thank the brass it was level ground still,
    we muttered, listing in the dark's embrace.
    And then we saw the hill.

    circa 1995

22 July 2002   09:44 hours
the merlion takes flight { } vignettes of the unseen, i