Banzai!

When all the nips with
accents where Taff and Tom have eyes
come surging their cruel etc. way
towards you,
bayonets fixed like grins, in
Battle Picture Library, their cries
are uniform, a single howl:
Banzai!

You'd guess a loose translation,
siding with Tom and Taff, as (say)
I'll chop your bollocks off,
or, more elaborately, The Emperor
of Rising Sun protects us. Or perhaps,
in less imaginative mood, Cheers! or
Charge! or just Let's Go!

It's therefore something of a shock,
thirty years later, to discover
that Banzai! means 'Long Life!' -
an irony in B.P.L.,
since Taff and Tom invariably
shot them in half a tick.

Long Life: it was the beer
my father packed for picnics.
a pair of manly cans
to complement the eggs, tomatoes,
the slice of pie. Cheers, we'd say,
waving our Bitter Lemons while
he knocked his Long Life back.
It didn't work. He died
on the stroke of sixty-five, his lungs
scuppered by cancer.

From the book Robinson Crusoe's Bank Holiday Monday