by Ruth Padel

I was with Special Force, blue-X-ing raids
to OK surfing on the Colonel's birthday.
Operation Ariel: we sprayed Jimi Hendrix
loud from helis to frighten the slopes
before 'palming. A turkey shoot.


The Nang fogged up. The men you need
are moral and kill like angels. Passionless.
No judgement. Judgement defeats us.
You're choosing between nightmares all the time.
My first tour, we hissed into an encampment
early afternoon, round two. The new directive,
polio. Inoculating kids. It took a while.
As we left, this old man came up, pulled on our
back-lag jeep-hoods, yacking. We went back.
They'd come behind us, hacked off
all the inoculated arms. There they were
in a pile, a pile of little arms.


Soon after, all us new recruits turned on
to angel-dust like the rest.
You get it subsidized out there.
The snail can' t crawl on the straight
razor and live. I'm innocent.

(This poem was Commended in the 1992 National Poetry Competition)

Last updated May 02, 2015