Colonel Bogey (a poem)


My first novel ‘About turns’ started life as a draft called Colonel Bogey. When it came time for publishing this book, Random House (2005) asked around their office if any of their staff knew what Colonel Bogey was… it seemed this old marching tune was unknown. I’m very grateful, as the new title which I decided on, is the best and a lovely play on words. But anyway, I’ve written a poem instead, called ‘Colonel Bogey’… a marching poem. I kind of like that my writing goes not highbrow but with the less literary to review our Kiwi lives.

About Turns by Maggie Rainey-Smith - Penguin Books New Zealand

Through the creaking turnstile

Like sheep for the dipping, guts

aflutter, hats askew, excitedly

busbies, chinstraps, multi-coloured

feathers, barely eaten breakfasts

onto the long-forgotten mudflat

home to the rugby, the cricket

and sometimes  marching girls

claimed the paddock, named

after the battle of Trafalgar, for

after all, this was Nelson in the

sixties and all things Colonial

Legs dressed in Coppertone, DHA

on dead skin cells, the smell of

every tournament, the orange of it

Kilted men with bags and chanters

juggling drones, cradling tartan

bags for music lovingly underarm

the skirl, the dying whine, the

underlying groan of it, a singular

drum, the thrum and thrill of it

Oh, how we loved the pipers

Their hairy be-skirted masculine legs

The seduction of their sporrans

But the kneel-down salute or pivot

wheels needed a brass band drumkit

precision in each beat to match our feet

The Pipers stirred our hearts, lifted

our spirits, but a Piper out of breath

could spell death to the display march

it began with the fall-in, serious stuff

with callipers measuring every inch

along the matching backs of boot heels

Marker, the Leader would call, and

as if summoned by God, she would

march precisely, the perfect steps

Landing squarely on that white disc

for to miss the disc was to upend

our chances of making the medals

By the end of the day, leg tan stained

the seats of the grandstand, hats sat

askew, spectators started to dwindle

All we wanted was the music to fill the

park, our hearts returned to the pipers

to the kilted drum major, his mace of silver

The maze march, our triumph, banners

aloft, tubas and drones, multiple drums

and who knows, perhaps Colonel Bogey

The girls who went to private schools

and learned to do a pirouette at bar

would secretly look and envy us from afar


But only now they dare to admit this.

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