new zealand electronic poetry centre


Kendrick Smithyman

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Neuve Église

Neuve Église was a rear area.
In the first week of May the enemy attended
to Neuve Église, by night.

It was, it must have been, somewhere about this
time Father ended service in the field.


In the beginning was, or in the end/
interim was, Father's Big Bang or his Black Hole
he pitched into, and the hole closed
over. He was turning to descend
the dugout
                              when the shell landed.

A fragment came so near it sliced his bayonet
at shoulder height. His right eardrum
shattered. Which of course he didn't 
know at the time because he was getting 
buried, the trench wall collapsing
into their stinking hermitage with him
under, seen to go, then gone.

They dug, hard enough at any time - 
but in gasmasks? That clay which was not
even clay any more, some unjust soil chemical
charnel, and the wet which wasn't just
rain or seep or longsoaking piss
but compound of all along with
gas, which he was breathing.

They got him out.
They sent him down the line, they sent
him Home. Years after
                   one of them offered him a souvenir,
a shell fragment inched out from
the trench wall thought to be the one cut
his bayonet. "No, really," he said, he couldn't
honestly say he wanted it.


Last updated 13 December, 2002