NAMING OF PARTS
~ by Henry Reed
Today we have the naming of the parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But today,
Today we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighboring gardens,
And today we have naming of parts.
This is the lower sling swivel. And this
Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see,
When you are given your slings. And this
is the piling swivel,
Which in your case you have not got. The branches
Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,
Which in our case we have not got.
This is the safety catch, which is always released
With an easy flick of the thumb. And please
do not let me
See anyone using his finger. You can do it quite easy
If you have any strength in your thumb.
Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see
Any of them using their finger.
And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this
Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it
Rapidly backwards and forwards. We call this
Easing the spring. And rapidly
backwards and forwards
The early bees are assaulting and
fumbling the flowers.
They call it easing the Spring.
They call it easing the Spring– it is perfectly easy
If you have any strength in your thumb– like the bolt,
And the breech, and the cocking piece,
and the point of balance,
Which in our case we have not got,
and the almond blossom
Silent in all of the gardens, and the bees going backwards and forwards,
For today we have naming of parts.
A World War II drill instructor’s presentation is here perceived via the stream of consciousness of a highly distractible, spring-fevered young conscript.
I am reminded of Richard Eberhart’s lines from “The Fury of Aerial Bombardment,”….. “They are gone to early death, who late in school distinguished the belt feed lever from the belt holding pawl.”
“Naming Of Parts” is the first of a series from Henry Reed, “Lessons Of The War,” each of the poems based on the drill instructor motif. Reed also adapted “Lessons Of The War” into a radio drama presentation for two voices, which was broadcast by the BBC.