Poetry,  Special Issue

Khormaskar by Matthew M.C. Smith

In 1967, the Royal Marines were sent to South Yemen to support the evacuation of the British from the port of Aden, a colony. My father was in Four Five Commando unit.


                     I

Aden, South Yemen, ‘67,
Empire’s light on eastern straits.
Blades beating, rotor thunder
Westlands thump, ascend, gyre;
break, split from assault ship strip, 
base-bound with Commando cargo.
Over sea, over land, “Per Mare, per Terram”
as angels cast from cyclone heaven.

Radios crackle across wire waste,
razor-sharp rows, Khormaskar Airbase;
sentries watch under camouflage nets,
scan jet-fuel fields, as silhouettes,
through Union flags, frayed, 
ringed spines of hills surveyed.


                     II

A hangar, filed lines of desert dress.
Four Five Commando Units drilled, addressed,
Company Officer, Empire’s best,
khaki torsos, broad chests.
Blasts of heat swallow breaths,
blood beats throbbing heads.

Royal Marine Michael ‘Smudge’ Smith, Arden 1967


                     III

A sniper’s finger 
curves on a trigger 
above Crater town
with spotter crouched
in prickled heat;
searching streets, roofs,
perimeters scoped. 
Gunfire in the hills, 
sorties scrambled.


                     IV

In streets, British patrols betray nothing.
The Yemenese on foot, 
in cars, crowds, herding goats
are indifferent, estranged
and occupied. A soldier
kicks a pebble back 
to an infant boy, 
who has cast it, 
seated on a step.


                     V

Stop, search. Houses 
rifled as guts spill out.
Floorboards prised, splintered, 
walls butted,
mattresses turned, pillaged,
furniture, fabrics, shredded.
Screams, cries, shouting. 
Cracks of a firing squad 
down the block.
A jeep in dust.


                     VI

In Khormaskar cemetery
crosses are sundials
in diurnal heat.

____________________________________________________________

Matthew M.C. Smith is a Welsh poet from Swansea. He is published by Icefloe Press, Wellington Street Review, Seventh Quarry, Back Story, Other Terrain and Welsh Haiku Journal. Matthew is the editor of micropoetry journal Black Bough poetry. Twitter: @MatthewMCSmith FB: MattMCSmith

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