Monday, February 1, 2016

Valerie Gillies (b.1948)

Head: Sabre Wound
The strokes of a sabre
on his wan head –
those blows repeated
in the heat
of battle
where sabres whirl
like flames.

An attack
by a tiger
or the wake
of a cutlass?
He is conscious 
but he can’t speak.

Better the clean cut
of the sabre than all
the musket-fire, grape-shot
or tearaway cannonball.

A field surgeon knows
such a head injury
gives ‘frequent opportunities
of seeing the upper
and the lateral parts
of the cerebrum
by sabre wounds.’

To manoeuvre a cavalry horse
ridden in balance
staying steady
leaving the sabre arm free
is a skill
parried by another:
to remove fragments of bone
from the skull
allowing the wounded
to recover.

Valerie Gillies

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