You Do Talk About Camouflage, Day Patrols - Poem by Gert Strydom
(in answer to Ernst van Heerden)
Tell me great poet tell me
how it feels to be called up against your will,
to from very high above the earth fall down by parachute,
and to have an enemy camp beneath you?
Have you seen canon shots from a hostile T-55 tank
pierce a Ratel armoured car's armour,
did you scatter the white powder over those killed
where they lay in trenches
or have you jumped from a burning armoured car?
Have you seen what does remain
when a soldier on patrol does detonate a landmine
or does receive a mortar bomb
or a rocket grenade as a gift from the enemy
and then you do talk of soldiers
that walk through the bush?
You do talk about camouflage, day patrols
and about hiding behind sand bags,
but have you seen the black population totally mad
necklace each other,
have you seen a burning person crying?
For your poems I do have great respect,
as I know that at a time you had been a soldier
and that you are a great poet
but you do not know
how misery could circle out wider in the bush war,
how veteran soldiers now do not know
where they do fit into their own country.
[References: "Marlene" and "Skietgoed" (shooting goods) by Ernst van Heerden.
"Onder wasgoeddraad se onderhempies deur
klouter klein poenskop Krisjan van De Wet
langs koue waters van die balie,
gooi kole in die erdvarkgat en skiet
pif-paf op kronkels van die rooikopslang.
By geroeste konkas, Wagter met sy blaffies,
skreeu die makkers: "Honoris Crux is joune! "
Jy's veilig deur met ‘n granaat in die vuis
nou hol vir die vale in Mulilo se bos,
omseil met jou tekkies die landmyn se brul! "
"Through under the washing lines and undershirts
small bold headed Krisjan De Wet climbs
next to cold water out of a drum
and he throws coals into the hole of the anteater and fires pif-paf
on the coils of the red headed snake.
At some rusting drums the dog Wagter is barking
and his comrades shout: A "Honoris Crux" is yours!
You are safely through with a hand grenade in your fist-
now just to run to the bush of the pale Mulilo,
sneak with your running shoes around the roar of the landmine! "
(Note a "Honoris Crux" is a South African military medal for utter valor.) ]
© Gert Strydom
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