Haibun Today

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Editor
Volume 4, Number 2, June 2010

David Cobb
Shalford, Essex, England



'Squad, halt! On the command, fall out, and fall in again in line. Fall out!'

In our pay books the clerk, Corporal Crumb, has to record our religions.

'Make up your minds what you are. You got four choices ― C of E, RC, N/C, and the lot what don't eat pork on Friday.' Church of England, Roman Catholic, Non-conformist, Jew.

A narrow range, some of us have to test the boundaries.

'Seventh Day Adventist, c'pl.'


'Church o' Scotland, c'pl.'

'C of E.'

'Don't believe in sod all, c'pl.'

Corporal Crumb converts this man instantly to C of E.

Doesn't make a penny difference to a rookie's pay, we are told. Just C of E have to go on church parades, the remainder bash spuds.

'Jewish, c'pl. Jewish tailor.'

'Report to the Officers' Mess, Axelrod.'

It's important to know what kind of prayers to say when they bury us. The how of our putative funerals.

But not the when or where. That was tossed into the lottery pot when we lined up once before, yesterday, still wearing our civvy clothes.

'Squad, halt! On the command, fall out, and fall in again in line. Fall out!'

Some of us are about to join a famous regiment with a red shoulder flash, the others to wear an equally famous blue one.

'From the left, number.' (One, two, three, four .... twenty-nine, thirty.) 'Odd numbers, one step to the left. Even numbers, one step to the right. March!'

We pick up our shoulder flashes with orders to sew them on by morning. That first step, dexter or sinister, the start of one of two different routes into uncertainty. In the end we shall know. The blue flashes will go on to active service in Europe and gradually fade towards release. The red ones will travel much further.

desert dust
at the drumhead we'll mark
the crimson words




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