I could see that he was up for it,
the soldier on the parapet,
I'd seen that straight away.
The theory always was that we should listen.
Listening was key.
But not for him I'd sensed that from the off.
He wanted me to talk
was all geared up for listening. Expected that.
He didn't seem at all like us.
his training had kicked in.
Not like the rest of us when we get up each morning
if we can do it all again today.
He could have done it all, all right
and he knew he could
no doubt of that.
But what was there to say?
Words would not come
or came together
and in no telling sequence.
Out of joint.
I strung them out
like hankies on a line
and found a hint
or a tinge of sense
but not his sense perhaps
they'd by-passed that
with all th usual platitudes:
I wouldn't want to go that way, was one.
This time, he seemed not to have heard.
And then it clicked, his eyes hard-focussed on the water.
You know a better way? One
that you might share?
My turn to look down at the water then.
Not really, no.
He looked at me.
You're wanting something, mister?
And then I saw the back of his right hand tattooed
a Save the Panda motto and design.
You care about endangered species?
why I said that.
what he then made of it.
I saw myself a child again,
a wooden six gun in my hand.
(War time. You couldn't get the real thing, so my dad
had carved it from a single piece of wood.) And there I was
striking my best friend across the forehead
The connection - if there was one - was the child's emotional
like me with pleurisy
seeing sterilizers steaming in some A and E
and making it quite clear
I wouldn't stay to tea.
I told the soldier on the parapet my tale of friendship
loss and violence. He asked
about its outcome
like were we friends again, my friend and I?
I said we were.
And then he smiled, thanked me for listening his voice now soft
you might say feminine
and then he shook my hand
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