Day 25 – reasons (& relations)

25 australian_infantry_small_box_respirators_ypres_1917-awm.jpg


Because Anzac Day always falls during NaPoWriMo, I often myself writing about it owing to my many & varied (often conflicting) emotions about it. I think I could quite easily publish a chapbook of just Anzac Day-themed poetry. 

Once again, this is not the poem I set out to write, that one remains half completed needing more time & more research to complete. It is conceivable that parts or all of this poem may one day make their way into that more encompassing piece.

*****

Lest we forget

i.
When Cousin George
declared war
against Cousin Wilhelm
in August 1914,
13 year old Australia,
a British Empire dominion
was likewise at war
— automatically.
We had no choice.

ii.
While many thousands of young
men eagerly rushed to enlist;
thinking it a grand adventure
to assist three spoilt imperial cousins
squabble over colonial interests;
Australia twice voted against conscription
as political parties split & formed new
alliances, elections were fought
& a Prime Minister resigned over
the contentious issue of our involvement.

iii.
60,000 Australian diggers
were treated for venereal diseases —
almost as many who were killed.

iv.
When the war was over
thousands of thousands of men
many with debilitating physical
wounds: torn limbs, gas-burnt lungs,
missing eyes, metal-sliced flesh;
as well as those enduring
post-traumatic stress disorder
back when it was much more
poetically named shell-shock:
the warhorror of bursting bombs
mates exploding next to you,
then days in the trenches
alongside their rotting corpses,
had to be re-integrated into a society
revulsed at the monumental destruction,
keen to resign the war (& too often
those symbols of it) to the past
& attempt to resume normal life.
Many soldiers kept their war silent.
But many of those did not
  or could not
                        make the transition.


 

BONUS POEM: April 25, 2018

In France. In V-B. 100 years on.

*****

Idols

for many windswept years
it’s been our special story
entrenched in lore & legend

my grandfather’s uncle
his father’s younger brother
guts unpacked by a MG bullet

killed in the battle
to retake Villers-Brettoneux
early morning, Anzac Day 1918

however today I met three
families with the same story
all blood drained from it

like a carcass on the hook
plus the bone dry testimonies
of half a dozen more

which has simultaneously
made our special day
less  & a little more   so

25b vb names.jpg

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