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not of the salt-mill of stars
in the bleak night skies


not of the chill mists slipping
from hillsides, and the eerie stillness
that falls over village, over road,
over goat and sheep trail,
the look-out posts


not of the taste of grit dust,
of sand on fear-dry lips,
or the way it clogs nostrils
and places veilings over eyes
so you understand why faces of locals
are swathed in scarves


not of the fact that there is not ever
the slightest chance you’d catch a glance
of a sniper’s profile, only fire flash
barking through darkness
from distant Kalashnikovs


not of the wide open faces of mates
collapsing to caricatures of string-puppets
sliding – slowly, slowly – out of action,
heads lolloping forward,
and limbs slithering
as when bullets bring into flower
their fleshy wounds,
startling, blood-fresh


no, not any of this:
all that goes without saying,
is part of the job


but of the fact that last night
on patrol in Helmand Province,
their son
became the one hundredth serviceman
so far this year