Rosemary Purse-Robinson

A GOOD WAR

His father warned, “You’ll be in this one boy”
after seventeen summers exchanging school grey for airforce blue
this boy who grew up near Wigram passionate about planes
goes into The Pacific which means peace where he sees everything but.
Straight from Mother’s Victorian manners
to twelve-man-hessian-unpartitioned-latrines at seventeen
pilot dreams wither with the Draft Officer’s

Short-sighted! – Perfect for instrument repairs!

Standing naked in his boots in the sizzling steel fuselage, paddling in sweat
tipping it out the cock-pit door every half-hour to stop the slopping around slipping
which prevents the specific precision of fine-boned tanned tapered fingers
pre-occupied with tuning dials, longitude/latitude/altitude/fuel for Yank Fighters
and later they swim in the sea – pilots grown men and Bougainville-Guadalcanal-boy
starkers to fend off sweat rash/tropical-ringworm and other jungle fungal

invaders in his own privates’ war

He: smokes all they dish out and drinks even more – its a war
– thinks he’s scored, when they built a board-walk to keep him above the tropical-mud-rain
– teaches himself to repair watches – trades with acumen anything the loaded Yankees discard

I had an easy war

he feels obligated to tell the ravaged families who don’t want to know him when he returns,
so he volunteers for J Force – stationed in the Hiroshima wasteland
he drinks a lot of local beer – is honoured guest of small-faced Japanese survivors
buys his sister a silk hanging/ her daughter has it now

– I had a good war and I’m quite frank about it

all the tainted beer a Kiwi Kid can sink before medivac to Okinawa where
he agrees with the Doctor’s prognosis You’ve sunk too much piss – childless
until long after marriage – no revelation in a sperm count and it’s 50 years before
they discover his shrivelled kidney – by then the cigarettes have all-but-burst his lungs
leaving him insufficient breath to adequately apologize for having a good war
– his medals we taught him to laugh at, destroyed by kids in the sand-pit

They only gave them for the tropical ringworm ha ha.
I had a good war you know, and I’m quite frank about it.

As his replacement medals are pinned on
his seventy-summers’-shoulders shudder
and he cries like a seventeen year old boy