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.
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.
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.
A sniper’s finger
curves on a trigger
above Crater town
with spotter crouched
in prickled heat;
searching streets, roofs,
Gunfire in the hills,
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.
Stop, search. Houses
rifled as guts spill out.
Floorboards prised, splintered,
mattresses turned, pillaged,
furniture, fabrics, shredded.
Screams, cries, shouting.
Cracks of a firing squad
down the block.
A jeep in dust.
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