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DESERT DAWN ©

Tom Barker
Joondalup, Australia

The cold keeps the tired from sleeping, but shortly before the dawn,
the soldier who should be dreaming, stifles a stubborn yawn.
He has been all night watching, the shadows that creep and slide,
like a sandy floating carpet, where Mussolini’s black shirts hide.

As the sky begins to lighten he looks at his mate’s face,
and ponders if tomorrow, will we ever leave this place?
There is no water fit to drink! and nothing worth the eating,
the last place God ever made, and our number are depleting.

But watch the dawn as it comes up, could it perchance be our last,
and see the blood red rays, as on the sand they’re cast.
The shadows flee as does the cold, as light o'er the desert rippled,
and ware the man who rises up, to be killed or perhaps crippled.

There is no turning back for him, or a place to hide,
but who would turn from the enemy, and wound his mother’s pride.
So fix your blade and wet your lip, this will not take so long,
then you can join your mates again, and sing a merry song.

The fiery sun creeps upward, ever warmer till it’s hot,
and flies are ever milling round, a waste of time to swat.
For every time one kills a fly, it always has a brother,
he will bring a thousand more, then us they try to smother.

We drink a sip and wait awhile, wait there by the thistle,
and only move when told to move, or a blast from a piercing whistle.
For when it blows one moves so fast, that anything to mark,
is like leading on a drunken man, or shooting in the dark.

The R.S.M. has stopped awhile, to stoke his trusty pipe,
and even as he lights it, he turns and has a gripe.
Says something to our Piper, who is without compare,
the bagpipes began their wailing, and we hear the old 'Black Bear'.

The whistles blow and we all know, now is the time to go,
and we set off just like any Toff, strolling down Saville row.
The sand blows over every thing, but the seaside it is not,
one old Regular groused, “We hevnie even hed a tot”.

The Italian guns are firing, and some shells miss but roll,
as ever nearer the enemy the Argyll’s take their stroll.
We kill some at a distance, then as together we race,
see the look of fear, as we meet enemy face to face.

There is no time to get friendly, nor check out if we can trust,
so we fight for our life in the desert, then throw up in disgust.
We return home a hero, and the bands play happy tunes,
but one’s mind is still churning, of the encounter among the dunes.

"Would you do any different?", someone asked me at tea,
"I’m sorry that I can’t answer. What is to be, will be."
The sun is as hot as ever, as o’er the desert it shines,
and cold are the nights and mornings, as the Mistral whines.

A lot of young men are missing, and lots of Mothers weep,
and a man goes to his bedroom, to rest but cannot sleep.
Even now in the moonlight, the scenery seems grand,
but it takes me back to the desert, where we struggled in the sand.

I turn again on my pillow, as I try to sleep,
but memories that are so bitter, through my mind they creep.
Maybe if some could find mates, in that far-off land,
and bring them to sleep near their loved ones, instead of alone there in the sand.


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