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Herbert Lomas, from A Casual Knack of Living: Collected Poems

Lincoln, Autumn 1943

1. Pissoles

Yer eyes are like pissoles in snow.
Sergeant Birkett fixes us
with a seagull stare.

Six weeks, and he'll crack the same joke
to a new intake. This too is a stage,
and the old jokes are best.

Last night we drank three pintfuls
of powerful Lincolnshire cider.
It cost a day's pay.

The bugle sings reveillée at O six hundred hours —
a new kind of clock for
a new kind of life.

Then a cold-water shave in the ablutions,
with no light, though now there's
light enough for the officer to check our shave.

We ourselves are hot khaki pissoles
in the cold snow
of defending our country.

(from A Useless Passion)