The Manchester Review
Medbh McGuckian
Three poems
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Antipersonnel Mine

Only 19 years old , but I was called “Father”
By a dying German soldier. He was old and fragile,
He did not have a weapon.
He lay twisted around his right leg,
But when he saw the red crosses on my arms and helmet,
His mouth stretched as if shrieks
Were coming out, he reached for me
And cried ‘Vater!’

I bared the wound at midthigh,
Put sulfa powder on the exposed bone,
Covered it with a compress, tied a loose
Tourniquet.He was graying fast.
I stuck morphine in, he wasn’t eased,
I gave him another eighth of a grain
And watched him lapse into shock.
I felt as if I too had been shot
And yearned to be dead.

Gordon got ripped by a machine gun
Through the right waist. We were cut off
In foxholes by ourselves.
I tried to knock him out.
I took off his helmet, held his jaw up,
And whacked it as hard as I could.
I hit him up by the head with his helmet
But that didn’t work. Nothing worked.
He slowly, slowly, froze.

I knew of shelters built inside
Transformer housings, which are typically covered
With metal-plated doors marked
With warning signs featuring
A skull and crossbones.
The people inside would drape
High-voltage cables over the iron doors,
In front of which they would place wet leads,
They were completely dry
And warm enough for someone to lie
On the floor even during freezing weather.

We don’t have water. Everyone wants to drink.
People are simply burning up.
By chance I found one litre
While I was clearing away rubble.
Edka and I each had a little bit,
And then I took it back, practically full,
To our room for the others.
Lanna came over-she is terribly thirsty.
I gave her the bottle and said,
“You drink first’. Marion came over.
Lanna drank a third and asked him,
“Do you want a little water? Drink some and leave
Some for Rena. He drank
And put down the bottle.
There was not a drop left.