As if going into battle, the knapsack
full on my shoulders, its pipe and nozzle
slung up like a rifle.
We fight along the river, seeing shrubs
explode, riddled with fire,
eerie sounds of trees shrieking
like feral things, flames like faces
spilling down into the ferns.
We stagger, sick with the hammering heat,
dousing endless flames that slam at us
like nightmares, bright ghosts
groping at our limbs. We plunge
into that day's red thunder,
meandering in something huge.
We choke in smoking semi-darkness,
through the lead-coloured air.
Now the aching blistering weight
of the knapsack pulling my shoulders.
Exhaustion worries the scorched end
of some unity: thought and action
fused into one. Sagging now,
heavier than the slopping drums
behind the tractors coming in.
We see the new men walking in
and seem to meet our earlier selves
but are more certain and more tired.
I, older than my youth, seeing these men
as if they were children.