Anthony W. Pahl


Training was different this time around.
No marching, no drilling, no parade ground;
and the sense of the reasons we enlisted this time
was much less certain, we were well past our prime.
A commonality of reasons brought the six of us here
but the commonest of all was the reason of fear.

Our ages were ranged in a span of five years
and though none of us wept, our hearts drowned in tears
because the reason we’d come to hospital to train
was to try to relieve even some of the pain.
Though we weren’t old, our life seemed all gone.
Was there hope for a life and reason to go on?

Six weeks of reliving times that were hell,
sometimes joking and coping but screaming as well.
The bond we once felt in the hell we were sent
grew steadily stronger as we recalled past events.
And the strength of the ties that bound us upright
could be only experienced by brothers-in-fright.

We quietly talked through the night to the dawn,
smoking and joking while we silently mourned.
We showered and dressed and prepared for the day
hoping that some relief would soon come our way.
But nothing could prepare for the guilt that emerged
when the build-up of tensions broke the bounds of absurd.

I told a story of murder, of horror too great,
and as I was telling I knew it a mistake
I’d held it in for the last thirty years
and telling it now realised all of my fears.
And the story I told was too much to share;
the hate in their eyes was too much to bear.

Though innocent of the events and the evil I’d told,
to tell it at all was to break honour’s mould
I had to be punished in terms of “the creed”
and they punished me as mindlessly as was the deed.
But worse than the beating of body and mind,
was the torment of evil with the passing of time.

This story is true, as true as the time
when I saw the murder of a woman and child.
But the penalty for telling the story that day
has caused me to swallow and hold it at bay
and to question my mind and my sanity too
Is it true? Is it true! God I wish now I knew…