On Guard

My father, aged nineteen, tramps Dusseldorf,
no tourist, guards the military HQ,
brown curls crammed in his cap, gun scoured, in view
as the top brass roars into Dusseldorf,
raw shrapnel in his neck, false teeth on gums,
from forests where the wild boar fled from guns.

At night the staff cars sweep from Dusseldorf.
Past the stone houses, down the cobbled street
the Sergeant Major limps on stockinged feet,
“Don’t shoot, you bloody fool!” as Dusseldorf
freezes, my father’s rifle trains his head;
his rations heap a hungry Fräulein’s bed.

What, in the icy dawn of Dusseldorf,
shoots a sharp rustle from the broken hedge?
The sentry, bruised, sprawls in the gutter’s edge.

A German Shepherd, Nazi Dusseldorf’s,
breathes over him.  Instructed once to trip,
now starving, she remembered her old trick,

awaits his orders.  Whistled, in hills’ white space
through frost, low sun, his father’s sheepdogs race,
quick Choc, soft Toots.  She licks his frozen face.

Alison Brackenbury

If you have any comments on this poem,  Alison Brackenbury   would be pleased to hear from you.