HSC Info: 2 Unit General English: Bruce Dawe
And when I say eyes right I want to hear
those eyeballs click and the gentle pitter-patter
of falling dandruff you there what's the matter
why are you looking at me are you a queer?
look to your front if you had one more brain
it'd be lonely what are you laughing at
you in the back row with the unsightly fat
between your elephant ears open that drain
you call a mind and listen remember first
the cockpit drill when you go down be sure
the old crown-jewels are safely tucked away what could be more
distressing than to hold off with a burst
from your trusty weapon a mob of the little yellows
only to find back home because of your position
your chances of turning the key in the ignition
considerably reduced? allright now suppose
for the sake of argument you've got
a number-one blockage and a brand-new pack
of Charlies are coming at you you can smell their rotten
fish-sauce breath hot on the back
of your stupid neck allright now what
are you going to do about it? that's right grab and check
the magazine man it's not a woman's tit
worse luck or you'd be set too late you nit
they're on you and your tripes are round your neck
you've copped the bloody lot just like I said
and you know what you are? You're dead, dead, dead
Notes per line
- The poem starts in the middle of a sentence, giving the
impression that we might have fallen asleep like one
of the young recruits being shouted at. It serves
to catch our attention.
- Note the use of spaces and pauses: these indicate a
dramatic monologue, because they are natural spaces
to take breath. Dramatic monologues give insight
into the speaker, their situation, and the people
around the speaker and their reactions.
- pitter-patter is generally a gentle sound, but
in this context it is made to sound harsh.
- are you a queer? - this question reflects the
tone of the whole poem: to be called a "queer" is
obviously insulting to these men. Also is the start
of a whole string of insults littered through the
monologue, delivered in a blunt, confronting tone.
The question mark is also the first use of
punctuation, as the speaker pauses for impact -
- Eventually we get to the heart of the matter - the
instructions the sergeant is giving: "Cockpit drill"
where soldiers drop to the ground and return fire,
and the weapon checks.
- The poem is full of crude sexual references: "Cockpit
drill" and "crown jewels", for example.
- mob of the little yellows - the sergeant
dehumanises the enemy by making a racist comment,
thus making it easier for the soldiers to kill
them (if they're not really people, it doesn't
matter if they die).
- turning the key in the ignition, apart from
being an obvious reference to sex, serves to give
the soldiers hope by reminding them of coming
- The sergeant has drifed slightly, with alright
now he gets back on track, and throws a problem
at the soldiers, to make them feel uncomfortable.
They are conscript soldiers and unusued to the
strict discipline of the Army; the sergeant must
show his authority to impress into them the
necessity of listening to him: it's the only hope
they've got of staying alive.
- He drops back into dramatic monologue, using "you" all
the way because in the end it will be up to the
individual soldiers to determine what happens to
- a number-one blockage refers to a certain
technical problem. The sargeant is teaching his
soldiers to learn by terrorising them.
- Charlies is a racist name given to the
Viet Cong. At every opportunity he degrades the
enemy: rotten fish-sauce breath; they are
- it's not a woman's tit - back to sex
references, reinforced with worse luck -
because in this case, it's bad luck it's not a
- tripes is slang for "guts" (which I guess is
slang for "stomach and intestines"!) Here Dawe shows
how bloody war is - this is a vivid image that
brings to mind images of battle.
- Like I said ... you're dead dead dead : the
message of this poem; leaves us with a sense of
foreboding, that most people in this group
will end up "dead dead dead".
- Dawe shows the realities of war: alive one moment,
dead the next.
too late ... your tripes are round your neck ...
you know what you are? You're dead dead dead.
Here we see the explicit crudity of the
sargeant, and the reptition of "dead" emphasises
the message the officer wants to drill into his
soldiers. They are taught to hate, fear, and listen
to authority, so they won't just go out and die
needlessly. The officer does this by asserting his
authority and convincing them that war is real, not
a game: they are sent out not only with a weapon,
but as a weapon.
- The soldiers need to be numbed of all emotion when on
the field. Crude, racist jargon is used so they
will view the enemy as subhuman and feel no emotion
- The officer is not malicious: he is doing his job, and
he will do anything he has to to keep the boys
- There is no clear structure and the rhyme scheme is
unobtrusive, which emphasises the monologue form
of the poem: despite the rhymes, the poem still
sounds like human speech.
- The repetition of "T" and "I" sounds in words like
"click" and "pitter-patter" are onomatopoeic
and sound like weaponry. The soldiers are being
turned into weapons themselves (so that their
gun is merely an extension of themselves).
- This poem is not ironic; the use
of voice is almost a parody of a sargeant, but
the edge to the tone gives away his fear that these
soldiers will just go and die.
(back to the main HSC info page)
- What initial impression do we get of the instructor?
- What is our attitude to him and what he represents?
- How do we know it is the voice of somebody who has
power or control in this situation?
- Why does the instructor raise the issue of protecting
- Why does he speak about the enemy in the way he does?
- What do you think the instructor hopes to achieve?
- Is your attitude towards the instructor changed by the
end of the poem?