Poems

Peter Jeffrey: ‘Nasho, 1957’, ‘A mixed year but good for songs’ and ‘When I am an Old Man’

Nasho 1957,
Sergeant Tiny Herbert addresses the Platoon

“Right. Now youse bunch of peasants, after Jones has got that gun
Reassembled, if he ever does, we’ll have a bit of fun
With bayonet drill. In! Out! On guard! And jab ’im in the guts
And if it sticks, you fire a round and boot ’im in the nuts.
Your bayonet must be razor sharp and work as smooth as silk,
That’s why we never use it George, to open tins of milk.
Christ! Watch out with that Bren gun Jones! That greasy little thing
Is called the barrel-locking-nut-retaining-plunger-spring.
It may not look important Jones, me dozy little son,
But it’s absolutely vital to the function of the gun,
Which reassembles thusly, as we saw back in the hut,
Piston, barrel, body, bipod, magazine, and butt.
Right. Over near that copse of trees, you see those bags of chaff?
Swaying gently in the breeze? No need to bloody laugh,
Cos they’re the enemy my lads. What are they Jones agen?”
“The phantom army, sergeant, though they don’t much look like men.”
“I’ll do the jokes around here Jones, just get up off your blot,
Platoon! Fix bayonets! Stand at ease, and cop this bloody lot.
The Australian army bayonet is the longest and as such,
Or is it second longest? It don’t matter all that much,
The point is (joke—har bloody har) you see those hessian sacks?
They’re gooks who’ve raped your sisters men, now act like maniacs,
Hack ’em, stab ’em through and through, don’t worry if they bust,
Just scream to scare ’em shitless and then grind ’em in the dust.
That wasn’t bad for peasants so I’ll give youse all a pass.
Unfix bayonets! Get fell in, in three ranks on the grass!
Stand easy! Do your fly up Klose, you’re utterly obscene.
Coming up, me famous talk, entitled “Comp’ny Hygiene”,
Except you private Herman, you lovely bronzed Anzac,
You can double at the high port to that copse of trees and back.

Right. Getting to me lecture, which as well as being funny,
Tells you all about the army way to build an outdoor dunny.
In an hour packed from go to whoa with practical advice
On toilet lore I never use the same word for it twice.
The bogmobile, for instance, or the static pissaphone,
Are models that you’d like to hear about, and will before we’re done.
Then corporal Cox can march you to the quartermaster’s stores,
Private is it? deary me, that man is like a harlot’s drawers!
Up and down’s not in it—draw yourselves some four be two,
Steam out and oil your rifles and pull the buggers through.
Then the lecture and compulsory film about nuclear attack
I know you love so much, that’s why we’ve brought the bastard back.

I’m well aware Gone with the Wind it’s frankly bloody not,
We’re not the Regent theatre, it’s the only one we’ve got.
Mess must be in there somewhere, sharp at eighteen-thirty hours,
Don’t forget the Condy’s crystals when you step out of the showers.
Blanco belts and webbing, be in beddy-byes by ten,
Cos tomorrow you’ll be up at dawn to do it all agen.”

Peter Jeffrey

A mixed year but good for songs

You must have been a beautiful baby
Flatters Bob and Les and me;
But Clive’s and Germaine’s barque of life
Has yet to put to sea.

Ella lost her Yellow Basket
But not her red or green,
And Artie made the Hit Parade
Beginning the Beguine.

Dancing in the Dark
And Changing Partners charted.
But Bunny Berrigan complained
He just could not get started.

Then someone at Time magazine,
It must have been a gag,
Put Hitler on the cover
The year that Carlton won the flag.

And Nice Work If You Can Get It played
As Adolf tempted fate
By waltzing into Austria in 1938.

Peter Jeffrey

 

When I am an Old Man

I’m a man, not an old woman
And therefore I confess
Can’t wear a scarlet bonnet,
Nor yet a purple dress.
Instead of them I tend to think
It’s quite OK to use
Scarlet and purple braces
To hold up my tartan trews.
Like my hero maestro Bellow
With his tilted Borsalino,
I’ll toddle gaily off to get
My daily cappuccino.
Or I could adorn my noggin
With a dandyish fedora,
Or possibly a black beret
A la Che Guevara.
On my bi-pedal extremities,
No need for gaudy hues,
I’ll lace on some cognac Oxford brogues
Or double monkstrap shoes.
“Just look at that bizarre old goat,”
I hear some people snigger,
“Still wearing that old trench coat,
What a grossly outré figure!
He says it’s an Armani,
And he got it for a song
While shopping in, I think
It was, the First Arrondissement.”
But then, they won’t know who I am,
That I’ll be thinking, “Sir or ma’m,
Just like that legendary man,
Quite frankly, I don’t give a damn.”

Peter Jeffrey

 

 

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