Forward Operating Base Robinson

by Timothy Brewis

FOB Rob. 4.30am.            Shaken bolt awake
   by the bass boom of the perimeter 50s.
Kit shouldered swiftly. Out into the dregs
   of a night flickering
                  blue black / bright white,
   strobed with bursts of muzzle flash light
to the stuttering rhythms of the firefight
   Faces tense and tight,
                              the sangar sentries
   shout target indications
incantations which hold you rapt.
                   Then the GPMGs begin to snort,
short bursts at first
   easing into the battle,
                   quickly joined by the rattle
of Minimis and chatter of rifles.
   Echoes crash                off the Hesco walls
jostling with the calls for
                                              Ammo! More ammo!
                  Keep low, keep low!
No sign of slowing.            Then a surge of noise
   as the mortar boys down in the pit
start laying air burst 81s,
                     a swaying dance,
                  bending and twisting away,
bending and twisting away,
   bending and sending dust unfurling with
each crump       and jump         of the tube.
   And there is beauty in this moment;
        beneath a hissing, tracer sky,
        braced together, we are one.
        Fear sublimates comradeship
        into something more than love,
        held in suspension for as long as
        a transformation we will not
        mention, come sunrise,
        silent slumped in the spoil
        of spent cases and strewn link,
        listening to the tink, tink, tink,
                of cooling barrels.