This long poem is a true story of an incident in Egypt, which happened to me at the infamous Kabrit Crossroads, where villagers from Kabrit village nearby would ambush solitary army vehicles, by firing at the occupant from the top of surrounding sand dunes.
Everybody travelled at the utmost speed through this area.
The Sweetwater Canal is the life blood,
of the villages along its banks.
Their cattle trample its edge to mud,
only crossed by rotting planks,
The water the villagers had to drink,
and they used it for sewage too.
From it comes an appalling stink,
and the mud becomes like glue.
I was driving along the Treaty Road,
heading north towards Port Said,
when at that crossroads, the jeep I slowed,
because of something I espied.
I saw small children, my heart went cold,
as I looked at that foul smelling mess.
They were screaming at a two year old,
who'd wandered deep into that cess.
She was so near to the canals deep edge,
that I thought she might fall in.
So I swerved up to that awful sedge,
leaping out with the childrenís din.
Boots and socks and puttees came off,
and I waded to that child.
She teetered next that watery trough,
as I clutched her to me wild.
Slowly but surely to dry land we came,
in Arabic I tried to soothe her.
My pristine uniform now a shame,
but at least we didn't lose her.
I was going to give evidence in a court that day,
so smart as I had made my way hence.
White webbing, red cap, the full array,
the court would shortly commence.
Now I could see I was smeared with slime,
covered from the chest to my feet.
To change my uniform there was no time.
The court was in for a treat.
We reached dry land and the babe ran off,
to her mother all dressed in black,
and as I climbed from that malignant broth,
the villagers ran down the track.
I soon had a crowd around me,
as I scraped the mud from my clothes.
Women in black, with eyes just free,
their sounds of approval grow.
"Miushaka Howie" was said many times,
in voices so deep with meaning,
meant " Thank you - Thank you," quite in rhyme,
as against my jeep I was leaning.
Beneath the veils, I heard some sighing,
as the babe she clung to her mum.
What eyes I could see, with joy were crying.
The men just stood there dumb.
In some mortal danger the babe had been,
but I'd reached her before she fell in.
Even if and I had seen,
I knew I would have dived in.
I poured water from my goatskin bag,
over my stinking feet and legs,
but when that too began to sag,
I was down to the last few dregs.
I sat on the bumper of my jeep,
wondering just what to do,
when four women with eyes so deep,
brought water to clean me, true!
The four knelt down before me,
and gently bathed my feet.
Embarrassed, this just cannot be,
to stop I did entreat.
Only Bishops, Popes and Pharaohs,
had such treatment in the past,
not a young corporal from Peckham,
in that desert oh, so vast.
When ready to go and the jeep turned round,
the men came and shook my hand.
The women set up a strange shrilling sound,
which echoed across the land.
From that place as I drove away,
notorious for ambush and death,
the angels had been smiling that day,
giving that babe life and breath.
Was it Godís deep plan to stop me there,
amongst the people who hated us so,
and in his wisdom, give a cause to share,
as the life of that child did show.
I expect I'll be shot at, the next time I drive by.
I know that my thoughts are banal,
but I'm sure that his hand, it had stopped me,
at that dreadful Sweetwater Canal.