Ten days into bivouac in rain and snow,

the draftees settled on one side of a small hill,

zipped into sleeping bags, smoked, talked some,

and as the air cooled cold and a fine drizzle fell,

covered their heads as best they could

in the musty smell of military mold


They slept but not well; the ground was lumpy;

their backpacks tough pillows; skin spongy

in the heavy woolen uniforms; yet they chilled

as they took them off, put them on,

squirming like larva in an early frost


At dawn, Ratan woke first,

pulled his cap across his forehead,

and staggered to the crest of the hill

in skivvies and unlaced boots

carrying only his cigarettes and lighter


“Look!  See!” he quickly shouted,

lifting and spreading his arms to the dull sky

“Osserve nature;  osserve how

half thee hill is barren with dew,

thee other half covered with snow,

parted right down thee middle as a macheteee

might split thee skull of a gook in twain”


“Aw fuck you, Phil,” the other soldiers shouted back,

and would have shot him if their weapons were loaded

“Too damn early for your bullshit!  Go back to sleep!”


Ratan squatted on his haunches, lit a cigarette

He couldn’t tell the smoke from the cloud of his breath

“See here,” he told himself  “Just as I have proclaimed

A wonderment hath happened in thee universe

On thee one side, thee snow; on the other side, thee dew

What doth such portend?”



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