HIS WINTER WAR

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic
Veteran suffering from PTSD

Submitted: January 26, 2008

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Submitted: January 26, 2008

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Rising up undesired every time it snows –
this memory,
unbidden, unstoppable –
bitter companion of sixty years. 

You look down and
see yourself,
covered so completely in
new-fallen snow
and camouflage smock,
lying there immobile since three a.m.
White lump pretending
to be a fallen log, innocuous, unthreatening.
Four hours crawl so silently
to the bunker’s rear.
Now you wait,
despite the discomfort
of rifle lying under you.
You wait for Ivan
and morning light.
Despite the cold you have not slept,
are focused, wide awake.

Mini-fortress Russian bunker,
frozen logs and stone –
a low and viral hillock
infecting Finnish soil.
Reconnaissance confirms
one weakness to be exploited
before the rumbling tank
and field kitchen
arrive.

Rear door cracks open
and lamplight spills.
Vibration,
and snow slides from sodden roof.
Head follows light,
wary eyes searching the winter gloom.
Reassured, he ventures out
a pace or three
with bucket full of guano.
He hurls the contents across the snow,
polluting putrid slurry,
quickly frozen.
Tensing every fibre of your being,
you ignore it.

The Ivan turns,
you rise and rush,
shoot; toss grenade
and roll aside in haste.
A muffled blast,
hollow, deep, greets
the still dark morning.

A cheer goes up
from other comrades
hidden in the snow.
A second grenade is thrown
by them
through a firing slit.
When the smoke has cleared
you enter cautiously;
stepping over guano-man lying dead,
his stinking night-soil bucket
still within his grasp.
The smells of cordite
and the wet sweaty stench
of men reaches out to you,
fetid.

You find two men,
shredded where they manned
their gun.
Off in a corner, behind a table,
sits a wounded Ivan,
holding his steaming,
grey intestines in his hands.
For this moment only,
shock and horror
hold back his pain.
Wide-open eyes are fixed
on a place beyond your sight,
as his lifeblood slowly drains away.

He is young, and looks like you:
grey eyes, blond hair
cut short against the lice;
square face.
You say a prayer for his soul,
and shoot him
in the heart.
This is not malice,
but pity,
for he is already dead.
No medics here on the edge
of nowhere.
His eyes still open wide.

You search the young Ivan,
pull out his ID,
a pack of letters,
and the picture of a girl.
His name is Petr Kruppa,
a Volga German,
sent to fight for Stalin’s ego.
He is 17;
two years younger than yourself.
You will write to the girl
when the Winter War is over,
and send the bundled letters back.
Your comrades frisk the bodies,
loot the bunker,
set a fire,
and retire to the Finnish lines.

The smoking ruin
will be their tombstone,
for the Ivans will not rebuild it there.
And when the Russian tanks
come rumbling on their morning rounds,
your squad will have already
skied off to prepare
to take another bunker
somewhere else
along the Russo-Finnish Front.

And the Winter War
will continue to continue,
while Stalin spends
the lives of Russia’s children
to extend the boarders
of his paranoid ambition;
and Hitler counters with Finns as proxy.

And all the years of peace
since you turned twenty-five
have not dulled the dream,
or closed that young Ivan’s eyes.





James Gagiikwe © 2008


Note: P.T.S.D Many combat veterans, regardless of nationality, suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Winter War: Russo-Finnish War, 1939-1940. Continuation War, 1941-1945.


© Copyright 2017 James Gagiikwe. All rights reserved.

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