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poem pistol poem by Hugh Cook of

This is a Pistol

This is a pistol.
This is the blunt end,
And this is the naughty end -
Which is not to be pointed at anyone
But that blotched black-and-yellow trooper
Storming forward with a sub-machinegun.
This is a pistol,
A 9 mm semi-automatic Browning pistol.
Have seen it come apart and go together:
Now you
Strip it.


This is the magazine,
These are the bullets,
And these the commands.
And now -

The guns crack:
Concussion: smoke:
Concussion concussion concussion:
Gulls scream, and the echoes
Roll back from the ragged cliffs.

Walking back past the white manuka,
The young men relate
Their fathers' and their grandfathers' stories.
The child of fifteen shot face to face:
"I had a wife and family to go back to."
The paratrooper dead at dawn on Crete:
"Gott mit uns" on his belt.

Copyright © 1978, 2004 Hugh Cook

Author's Notes

(i) The setting of this poem is New Zealand, and this piece is about (in part) a new generation living in the shadow of the wartime memories of previous generations.

(ii) The "magazine" would be, in American English, a "clip" - that is, a metal sleeve designed to hold the rounds which will be fired from the firearm.

(iii) "Manuka" is a dark green New Zealand shrub or tree. The manuka is "white" because it is in blossom - in literal truth, it is the blossom which is white.

(iv) Crete is a Greek island where, during the Second World War, New Zealand forces faced an airborne German invasion force.

(v) "Gott" is "God" in German and, apparently, a New Zealand soldier saw on the belt of his dead enemy the legend "Gott mit uns," meaning "God (is) with us."

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