Poetry of Mike Subritzky


Singatoka Sunday
(Fiji about 1976)

pacific breeze
warm winds
palm trees
a village drum
summons sunday song.
naked bodies
and palm soap
cloud the river
while mangos 
burnt orange.
men first
then the women
in their nakedness.
grey sulu
white shirt
white blouse hat and skirt
leather sandles all round
the village goes to church.
a still and solumn sunday
canoes drawn up
further than the sand
cold taro
cold yam
no fires
jesus rests today.
and in the west
that distant
and palm fringed island
a schooner
under full sail
as burnished sun
where sky
collides with sea.
later, in fug of early evening
fruit bats circle
while quiet walk
and prayer
ends the day...

the sea breaks
over the reef.

Mike Subritzky 2001
IWVPA Beach Project


A quiet night in the barracks,
around midnight he starts it again,
he's yelling about some damned ambush,
and calling some Viet woman's name.

He always yells out he's sorry,
so sorry for all of the pain,
but every night around midnight;
he kills her all over again.

His life's in a kind of a freeze frame,
he can't move on from the war,
and every night just after twelve,
he's back in the Nam once more.

Back with the old 'Victor' Company,
back in that same Free-Fire-Zone,
and no bastard told those young Kiwi Grunts;
they patrolled near a woodcutter’s home.

When the Lead Scout signals it's Charlie,
the Platoon melts quietly away,
the 'Immediate Ambush' signs given,
and the Safety Catch slips onto 'play'.

There's five in the group in pyjamas,
as black as a midnight in May,
and the Killing Ground moves into picture;
then the Gun Group opens the way.

Black figures are falling around him,
now he's up on his feet running through,
and they're sweeping the ground where they dropped them,
as he 'double taps' a screaming torso.

At the Re-Org his fingers are trembling,
the Platoon Sergeant gives him a smoke,
then it's back to the bodies to check them;
and his round hit a woman in the throat.

There are blood trails leading behind them,
and entrails are spilled on the track,
but the woman who screamed once is silent,
two rounds exit right through her back.

The jungle seems silent and empty,
as they dig down and bury the mess,
then it's check ammunition and weapons;
and don't dwell on the past just forget.

Another night in the barracks,
and Jimmy is yelling again,
it's that same old Vietnam movie,
that's spinning around in his brain.

He always yells out he's sorry,
so sorry for all of the pain,
but every night around midnight;
he kills her all over again.

"To Jimmy B from Huntly - I hope you find Peace mate".

Mike Subritzky
Cassino Barracks 1974

A Cigarette Comrade

A cigarette comrade -
before I die
my face is torn
and my eyes are gone
but if you hold it to my lips
I can still draw the flame.

It matters not comrade -
that we are foe
I'm comfortable here
in your hospital tent
quietly bleeding into the dirt below.

Forgive me comrade -
if I call my mothers name
but it's so lonely here
on your hospital floor
and it helps me with the pain.

You weep for me comrade -
please don't be sad
the cowbells sound
I hear the doves
it is a good day for my life to end.

The butt is sodden comrade -
and I leave you now
goodbye my friend
until we meet again
far, far away from this African hell.

Mike Subritzky
NZATMC AP Lima 1980
Rhodesian War

I thought of you

I thought of you this morning beloved -
in the shattered dawning light
as we 'stood-down' from the alert
and I secured the starlight scope;
and we rested from last night.

I thought of you later beloved -
as Pete Shaw (the medic) and I
checked African kids for scabies
and pregnant African mothers
and old African men with TB...
who were waiting to die.

I thought of you just after twelve beloved -
as we stopped to wash and take a break
but then they brought the wounded guerillas in
from Francistown; with blood
and bile and bandages...
and then I thought no more of anything. 

Mike Subritzky 1980
Rhodesian War

Sailor Moon

That Saturday night the moon was so very
close, I felt I could reach out and touch it
through the cabin window of the liberty boat.
We crossed the harbour from 'Philly' and
came ashore at Admiralty Steps, heading
for Symonds Street and the Oriental.

Symonds Street was quiet but the Oriental
Ballroom was rocking.

She smiled at me through the crowd and
I was immediately drawn to her. Later she
told me that she was attracted to the blue
collar of my square rig and the crossed
cannons on my sleeve. I on the other hand
was attracted to her flaxen hair and the
shape of her breasts which were contoured
by her white peasant top. We danced as
Herma Kyle sang 'A Hard Days Night' and I
was intrigued by the way her nipples
stood out whenever I looked down into her
emerald green eyes. She was beautiful
and although the anti-war set of Auckland
were pointing at us, neither she nor I cared.

Her brother was in the Dutch Marines and
she had never even heard of Vietnam.

We kissed deeply when the last waltz
ended, the sparkle from the revolving
glass orb throwing fragments of light into
the depths of the crowded ballroom.
I couldn't believe my luck when she
asked me to her flat for a coffee.
We only drank tea on the ship.
The cab fare to her flat in Remuera cost
seven and six, but she paid without
batting an eyelid...it was more than two
days pay for an AB. We entered her flat
and quietly went into her room, her
flatmate was in but was busying herself
with a soldier fresh back from South East
Asia. His battledress jacket was slung
over a kitchen chair and I recognised
the combat ribbons. The coffee was
strong and thick, unlike anything I had
ever tasted and in her heavy accent she
explained it was Dutch.

The coffee was excellent.

I took my jumper and collar off, then
threw the silk and lanyard into my
upturned cap and we pashed for what
seemed like ages. She told me she was
24 which scared the hell out of me as I was
barely 17 and she was old enough to be
someone's wife. Presently she stood and
said 'bed' and I watched as she deliberately
drew her peasant top over her head to
reveal two unshaven and natural underarms,
and a pair of beautifully formed breasts. She
then slid down the mini skirt to reveal her most
intimate self. There was no bikini line, dark
shadows drifted down the inside of both thighs
and as well a dark inverted 'V' travelled upwards
to her navel. As tension heightened I reached
for my bell bottoms, popped the dome on my
money belt and withdrew an issue French Letter,
but she lightly stayed my hand.

The condom joined the silk and lanyard.

Presently she knelt above me, the most
natural woman I had ever seen and as our
lips met once more, she moved over me
and our bodies meshed. We kissed long
and slow as she rose and fell above me in
absolute control of her moment of passion.
I didn't know any Dutch words back then
but I guess that 'Eien Commen!' means
'Eien Commen!' in anybody's language.

Orgasms tend to cross the cultural divide.

She woke me at dawn and rang a taxi
while I dressed and then we chatted
about life in Amsterdam until the cab
arrived, and as she kissed me goodbye
she crushed a ten bob note into my hand.
It was only later that morning when we
were steaming out past A Buoy and into
the open sea that I realised that I had
never thought to ask her name, nor
she mine.

Things were different back then, later
they called it a sexual revolution.

Mike Subritzky 2001
‘Sex in the Sixties' project

your face

alone, i take out the picture you gave me
touch it to my lips
and remember.

so long ago, and yet so professional
you in your white and i, in army green
we would often chat over dinner. my dinner.

your dinner was waiting at home 
with cats, and kids, and husband...
always, the dutiful wife and mother.

your smile though, spoke with a difference
and through the whiteness of your uniform
so much woman, so much lace, so much stirring.

that night, the night i was posted
i saw the sorrow in your smile
and when we kissed, the realization.

i had always, thought of your face and smile
whenever i jerked to release
while my face was forever in your own lonely orgasm.

Mike Subritzky 2001


About Mike Subritzky

Background: Born in Kati Kati, New Zealand, from an old Polish noble family (enobled Poland 1495). Education Saint Joseph's Convent Waihi, Waihi College. Retired professional soldier. Captain. Served in the Royal New Zealand Navy, Royal New Zealand Artillery, Royal New Zealand Air Force, US Navy-Task Force 43 Antarctica, Polish (Independent) Reserve Brigade. 13 Tours of Duty, including peacekeeping Operation Agila (Rhodesian war). New Zealand war poet. Numerous published papers, documents, articles and poems in a wide variety of media; a dozen books on a variety of subjects and, The Subritzky Legend (Heritage Press, 1990) - Official New Zealand Sesqui Centennial Project, The Vietnam Scrapbook "The Second ANZAC Adventure" (Three Feathers, 1995), History of the Polish Government (in exile) 1939-1990 (Three Feathers, 1996). Nominated for New Zealand Book of the Year Awards 1996; named Book of the Quarter by Texas State University April - June 1998; honoured by the NZ ex-Vietnam Services Association by having a copy of his book The Vietnam Scrapbook "The Second ANZAC Adventure" laid at the Vietnam War Memorial "Wall" in Washington D.C. during the 1997 pilgrimage; awarded the American Vietnam Veterans (honorary) Distinguished Service Medal 1997, citation "for his contribution to all veterans of the Asian conflict and immortalising the Vietnam Veterans of New Zealand for all time". US Congressional Cold War Citation 2000. Numerous poetry awards. "The Flak Jacket Collection", an anthology of personal war poems 2001. Assisted with with the official New Zealand Millennium Television Series "Our People - Our Century" TVNZ, 2000. Most recently was selected to have his work published in the Australian war poetry anthology "The Happy Warrior". President IWVPA 20001.
Subritzky has written some of the most important New Zealand war poetry of the 20th and 21st century, and is one of the best known New Zealand poets on the international scene. 
He is regarded as 'The Kiwi Kipling'
Tannenberg Hall, 93 McNair Road, Te Awamutu 2400, NEW ZEALAND.
email: kusza@ihug.co.nz

Music: As Time Goes By

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