© M. Pattie, 2013

Winner 2013, ABPA West Australian Championship, Toodyay WA.

He cannot stop his crying. His hands caress his head.
Nobody counts the dying – they only count the dead.
A life that’s not forsaken; one thing he can’t condone.
Whilst others had theirs taken, he cannot take his own.

He’s drip-fed by his pension, and whilst he aches for nought,
with things he dare not mention, his dreams are dark and fraught.
The Oruzgan ‘elective’ and six months in a hole.
The draw not so selective, as others made ‘the toll’.

It reeked of the unpleasant, that hole; it laid him bare,
but where he is at present – that hole; it don’t compare.
Its woken things inside him, as whisky gets him pissed,
with half a joint beside him, and form-guide in his fist.

Sub-consciously he’s floating, awake at 2am.
A cold, hard sweat the coating, the mantra’s ‘us and them’.
He’s fighting the resistance; he’s back in Oruzgan,
just clinging to existence; just doing what he can.

There’s demons as he stumbles, that no one else can tell,
and incoherent mumbles, in silence he’ll just yell.
There’s no indemnifying on TV, by his bed.
Forgotten are the dying – they only count the dead.

Of sleeping and of waking; there’s pills to numb the pain.
To dull the point of breaking, there’s always novocaine.
The toll it keeps on mounting; the focus – like a score.
Whilst counters stop their counting, he’ll always be at war.

A sortie slaps the silence when somebody gets close.
Involuntary violence; a cruel unmeasured dose.
That calm unquiet query inside his silence hemmed;
for age that’s left him weary and years that have condemned.

A clean, fresh gaze fixated:  the ANZAC on the wall.
Always commemorated; forever standing tall.
His epitaph to follow, his death so held in awe.
In hindsight words so hollow; “we fought to fight no more”

When men still make their master and all the stats are read,
he’ll wish he’d died much faster, but won’t make up ‘the dead’.
Mark time; it’s what the day’s for, as longer grow the nights;
the women that he pays for. The cigarettes he lights.

His incremental trying; so long ago it stopped.
But he who’s slowly dying, the dead will not adopt.
Much worse than dog’s diseases, he shivers and he sweats.
To rectify uneases? No ruse – and no regrets.

Whilst clutching fast, yet knowing, he’s free. . and free he’ll fall.
And blood. Just blood a’flowing; he’s sentenced to recall.
Each lifeless body broken, each shrapnel-riddled scream
of which he’s never spoken, from each tormented dream.

Locked in amidst the prying, so harshly cauterised.
The dead within the dying; not ever to be prised.
To what his life amounted, if he dropped dead today?
Not with the fallen counted, just with those passed away.

His passing signifying he’ll draw his final breath.
Whilst no one mourned his dying, still fewer mourned his death.
He’s sapped . . and can’t stop crying, his hands caress his head.
Nobody counts the dying. They only count the dead.

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