To an F.N. Rifle (Rhodesian Memories)

To an F.N. Standard Issue Rifle
(Rhodesian memories)

Night had settled quiet round the yawning ridgebacked dogs.
The gates were locked. The reading chair pulled near
To where my rifle rested in the shadow of the logs.
There should uninvited guests appear.
No bullet in the barrel,
The safety catch was on.
Relaxed we sat and warmed before the flame.
No bullet in the barrel,
It’s menace all but gone,
Its company gave comfort just the same.

Hours before we’d made a kill, though neither’d gone for sport,
We’d dropped a charging sable neatly dead.
Cornered there and gut shot bad, he couldn’t run, so fought.
The hunter’s gun had jammed, or so he said.
We weren’t there for the hunting
But needed just in case
The terrorists should think to make a play.
We weren’t there for the hunting
But hunters learned their place
As merciful, my rifle had its say.

It came from many miles away to help me in the wars.
He’d sneaked behind the backs of those in wait.
And crossed a dozen borders closed, and through forbidden doors,
And busted every sanction, not too late.
I’d camouflaged his woodwork
And I’d camouflaged his steel.
And even camouflaged his magazine.
I’d camouflaged his woodwork
But I couldn’t hide the feel
Of latent strength, now dormant. Stern, not mean.

Then, while I traced his history, the dogs began to bark.
I killed the household lights and hit the floor.
I can’t remember grabbing him, but hidden by the dark
Stealthily we both moved to the door.
The safety catch was off now,
A bullet in the breach.
The belt of magazines was slung behind.
The safety catch was off now,
Maybe danger within reach.
His heartless steel had cooled my boiling mind.

And then I saw the danger stand, but didn’t squeeze a shot.
It could have made no difference to the war.
The dogs had sniffed a kudu at a nighttime feeding spot,
Where Jeb, the stable lad, had stored some straw.
There wasn’t any danger,
But one of us had scared,
Though feeling somewhat foolish in the end.
There wasn’t any danger,
But such adventure shared.
Can only serve to make a gun a friend.

For if he hadn’t lived with me I doubt I could have slept.
Nor walked alone or worked about the farm.
I’d move away, for he alone is all that quietly kept
Me feeling safe from terroristic harm.
He’s just an issued riffle
Like twenty thousand more
The government distributes every year.
He’s just an issued riffle,
A soldier in a war.
But one who never knows the taste of fear.
He’s just an issued riffle
Whose thanks is sparse and poor
For one that guarantees I still have breath!
Not just an issued riffle,
He’s peace. He’s upheld law.
A means of living. Not a source of death.