Image by John Lesnie

Drunken Gunners

The gunners move like figures in a dance
Harmoniously at their machine that kills
Quite casually beyond the shadowed hills
Under the blue and echoing air of France.
The passing driver watches them askance:
'Look at the beggars - pickled to the gills.'
Yet bodies steadied in parade-ground skills
Correct the tottering mind's intemperance.

Housed under summer leafage at his ease,
Artillery board set up, the captain sees
His rule connect two dots a league apart
And throws destruction at hypotheses,
Wishing that love had ministers like these
To strike its distant enemy to the heart.


'Drunken Gunners', from Inscription on a Paper Dart: Selected Poems 1945-1972 (Auckland University Press; Oxford University Press, 1974), © M K Joseph 1974, used by permission of Charles Joseph for the Joseph Family Trust. Recording from the Waiata New Zealand Poetry Sound Archive 1974.

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