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A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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March 2006, vol 2 no 1

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Graham High

War Games

lighting matches
under my plastic soldiers—
only the Germans

I was both more literal and more imaginative than my childhood friends. Or so I considered. In any case I preferred to play soldiers on my own. For some days I became absorbed in the sheer variety and complexity of the injuries that could be thus inflicted on my toy army. Some whose limbs had become flat, puddled extrusions at shoulder and hip; others whose khaki clad backs had become twisted and doubled; one whose headless neck ended in a twist of pulled plastic, and another whose melded head was fused with sand. All fell eventually to the brutalities of battle: the British; the Japanese; the cowboys; the medieval knights. All of them needed attention.

But first the nature of their injuries had to be enhanced. The wounds made more real. I loved the Humbrol model enamel paint, the crimson so shiny and thick. Then, with the addition of yellow and white, I made the livid pinks of flesh and fat, the glints of protruding bone. But then, what to do with all these injured? A field hospital had to be made.

blood in the sand-pit
the pen-knife dropped beside
the matchstick palisade

I was not an expert surgeon. My mother's dress-making pins held arms to torsos. A green upholstery tack became a prosthetic foot. Strips of my father's Rizla cigarette papers were applied as bandages and tourniquets. The permanently seated soldiers, made for scout cars and jeeps, were fitted with crude wheel-chairs crafted from balsa wood. Even those soldiers who, through luck or favouritism, had so far been spared were withdrawn from the front line and given other duties. A German bazooka aimer and an English sniper had their weapons cut from their shoulders and were re-trained to carry a stretcher. Carefully they gathered an injured Indian scout who no longer crawled but lay face up, his crooked leg clearly broken.

When my friend Paul came with his army to do battle in the sand-pit, I had to tell him that my men, though brave enough, would never take to the field of war again.

fifty thousand dead -
the Prime Minister
voices an opinion

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