Where conscience makes cowards of us all, he has none left.
Now what would you have him do? This sergeant’s in
An altered state, after six, long months
Killing or not killing as often as we ask him to.

Transporting an outsize parcel through green vegetation
And earth the colour purple. Going in after a ’copter strike
Usually there isn’t much left: his men are used to
DNA samples – body parts collectable for ‘biometric enrolment’.

Today the sample is much bigger: still breathing; needs carrying
Grunts sweating and swearing, under a weary life
Each four-letter syllable assaults the trudge through enemy terrain,
Hauling what’s left of a man who’s likely dying anyway.

‘Can’t believe I’m doing this,’ one of the company complains.
His sergeant responds with a nasty little noise – the nine millimetre
Pistol shot, flat (splat!), and seemingly of no consequence.
Though later it leads to a murder conviction, commuted
Last week to manslaughter on grounds of mental abnormality.

Acting in the interests of his men – that’s what they say.
Carrying out a cold-blooded execution – according to the first court martial.
Outcome of adjustment disorder, the second bench has said.
Who knows how much of which and why assume they’re separate?

The point is a man tasked every day with action beyond the everyday.
The tick and tock of his daily commute clearly heard
In the parting words fired at the Taliban prisoner:
‘There you are – shuffle off this mortal coil, you cunt.’

A sentence rising high as Hamlet’s consideration of mortality,
Lying down with mingey beasts inside the beats of a bar.
This single cadence contains the gutter and the sky;
And that is the war music the piper was paid to play.