Jason Malvern

I can feel the nettle, stuck in my leg,
this remnant of Nebo’s glory, shoved
deep inside my thigh, and poisoned
too. I can just imagine the swelling
there, and the pain. Totally worth it.
An opportunity I’d never had before
In the field. The perfect ambush. No
Sound save for the odd raindrop. Op.†

The only one I missed. We drank
Victory sips from our canteens. Mine
Was nearly empty but I shared it with
Thurston. Up above, the water tower
Promised unlimited canteen refills
But offered us no source, not a tap.
The irony of it was lost on us. Once
We’d recovered we marched, our

Cut, leech & scratch inspections. JR.
My preferred call name. Sure, we’ve
Got walkie-talkies. Sticks, also. My
Hands a circuit board of cuts, made
by brambles. On the other side of Mt
Nebo there’s just the escarpment, and
a farm we don’t ever go to. Rumours
of ordnance, of secret tunnel dumps.

Jason Malvern. Securing the sting’s
Venom could take some time. Must
Remember to breathe normally, thin
Whistles of air between the teeth, my
Nostrils an army brown face mask.
On sale at Aussie Disposals. Should
Pop in there after my haircut. A flat
Top. It’s a totally Full Metal Jacket

perimeter, through the grey cotton.
Wasps and burrs. A three-cornered
Jack. Scorpion of the weed world.
Wheeling around to face an attack,
Thurston dropped his walkie-talkie
In the creek, laughing as its cricket-
like bleeps faded in the jungle dusk.
Returning home, mum read the tale

on my shorts. That’s better. I have
some Dettol in my locker, beside my
camo paint. Lee’s pocket knife still
there, ever since he got suspended.
No more afternoon detentions. His
Chance came early in the game, as
I foolishly left myself exposed from
The direction of Mt Kembla. I had

to cut a fresh trail through jungle –
to win. The second part was easier
than the first. Falling finally behind
the rock, I listened with my stick as
Lee and Thurston slowly advanced.
My first sighting of them would end
The game but they’d improved over
The months and all I saw was jungle

up at the source of American Creek.
Chest heaving, waiting with a stick
For a rifle and an empty canteen, as
My enemies close in on my position.
There’s something of a quiet jungle
when I return to my crow’s nest, my
eyrie of calm in a turbulent world. A
flicker of t-shirts between two trees.

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