Monday, August 10, 2015

Tuesday Poem: The Soldier Born in 1983, by Jennifer Compton

The Soldier Born in 1983

Before he could walk he crawled
for all the world the way a soldier
slithered through New Guinea
or Vietnam.

I could almost see the rifle
in his crooked arms
as he went elbows and knees
across the kitchen floor.

He searched the house through
but could not find his gun.
Rose up on his hind legs
found the wood basket and

something comfortable like a weapon.
He turned with a happy grin
slew his family with a practised sweep
and exactly the right sound.

- Jennifer Compton
used with permission

When I started high school I dove happily into everything on offer (everything except sports, at least!). This included the public speaking competitions - prepared and impromptu. One year ahead of me, and therefore in the same "junior" competitions, was one Jennifer Compton who impressed me enormously with her facility with words. We each went our separate ways, and it was not until 2004 when I discovered the poem above on the Poetry Daily website, with an attribution to Poetry Wales and wondered if it might possibly be the same Jennifer Compton. (Wales being a long way from New Zealand!)

And yes, it turned out to be the same Jennifer Compton, living in Australia, not Wales, and now a fellow Tuesday Poet. And I still admire her facility with words. She has written plays, short stories, and several collections of poems, including This City which won the Kathleen Grattan award and was published by Otago University Press in 2011. Her most recent publications are Mr Clean and the Junkie, a verse novella published by Wellington's Makaro Press, and Now You Shall Know, published in Australia by Five Islands Press. The poem above was included in her 2004 collection Parker and Quink. She blogs at Stillcraic


Jennifer Compton said...

oh my goodness - we were at school together!!

Kathleen Jones said...

Nice touch, Catherine, to post a poem by this week's editor! And such a good poem too. It gave me the chills.

Helen Lowe said...

I have been reading and loving "This City" over the past few weeks--so great to see this poem by Jennifer today, plus the amazing "degrees of separation" anecdote to go with it! :)

Helen McKinlay said...

The inborn violence of humanity! Or just a babe copying its elders. Whatever this is a very perceptive poem on the topic. and a lovely story about your shared schooldays. Thanks Catherine and Jen.