It begins with one or two soldiers
And one or two following
With hampers over their shoulders.
They might be off wildfowling
As they would another Christmas Day,
So gingerly they pick their steps.
No one seems sure of what to do.
All stop when one stops.
A fire gets lit. Some spread
Their greatcoats on the frozen ground.
Polish vodka, fruit and bread
Are broken out and passed round.
The air of an old German song,
The rules of Patience, are the secrets
They’ll share before long.
They draw on their last cigarettes
As Friday-night lovers, when it’s over,
Might get up from their mattresses
To congratulate each other
And exchange names and addresses.