Night on Patrol

The velvet lowering of night,
The stars hang golden, furry bright
Against a backdrop blue, then black
As God takes daylight's blessings back

And so the tracker's day must end
As light now fails, and troopies bend
To peer for tripwires in the gloom,
For broken grasses, signs of doom

To find a place that's safe to rest
But not to sleep; no need to test
God's infinite patience with our cause
No sense to challenge nature's laws

So rocky cleft must guard the back
With face turned out towards the track
Deep shadowed from all passers by
While starlight limns them 'gainst the sky

This blissful night, he'll try to doze
Fretfully, sentries on their toes
Harking for variance in sound
Whilst Africa cacophonies 'round

Its hunters, now awake and sharp;
The leopard's cough, the jackal's bark
Hyenas, giggling obscene
The nightjar's screech
The victim's scream

Christ! Is that animal or man?
No, just a tree out on the pan
As jumbo takes his evening feed
And transforms branch to ragged reed

Even at war, this mighty land
Can soothe the soul, caress the hand
In tiny fragments comes the peace
That gives the soldier second lease

On all the nights he once loved well
Before this spiral into Hell
When campfire's warmth, and whisky's glow
Brought mellow mood. As sun sank low

Against a sky so vast, so pure
That man could scarcely e'en endure
The beauty of Rhodesia's eve
He sat there, watching firelight weave

Soft dancing shadows, magic sky
Blue velvet curtain, draped from high
Soon smothering raging reds and golds
As night, then thought so safe, unfolds

But now, he holds his rifle tight
With one eye open, poised to fight,
His muscles ache, his soul's so sore
To see such glory scarred by war

Yet memories of those quiet nights past
Still fuel his dreams of peace at last.

Richard Fenner
Email Richard