Smoking in the clinic’s courtyard,
he stiffened, rigid at the sound of shelling.

Not shelling.  Fireworks.
Fireworks.  Not shelling, fireworks.

Fireworks.  Christ, they’re shelling;
he flinched as each shell burst.

Sweat slid slickly down his chest,
his dog-tags swinging gently as he shook.

Not his dog-tags.  They’re vapour;
vanished with his commission.

No.  Carefully crafted replicas:
something to hold onto when the shelling starts.

Not shelling.  Fireworks.
Distant mortars rumbled in his head.

Remember what the nurses taught you.  Breathe.
In … two … three.  Pause.  Out … two … three.

Pause.  In … two … three … oh what’s the fucking use?
He whispered, anguished, “Jesus – make it stop.”

Cigarette forgotten in his hand,
He turned to me, a silent witness:

“Alec, can you get a nurse?  Please?”