Day 25 — the actual war to end all wars

As always, Anzac Day crops up as a potential topic during NaPoWriMo. I’ve written before how this day is a conflicted one for me (see previous Anzac Day poems for more, particularly last year’s addition to the oeuvre). And as with two days ago (Bill Shakey Day) having the theme of “climate change” superimposed over “Anzac Day” initially flummoxed me. Until this idea presented itself, which in my opinion, solved the conundrum perfectly.

*****

the actual war to end all wars

sure we’ve trounced off to battle 
like it’s some sort of boy’s day out-
church picnic-gungho adventure-what!

just because the mother country demanded it
when her monarch couldn’t solve a tiff
with two of his cousins

yes we’ve fought proper wars against fascists 
& communists & nazis & people who believe 
different silly things to our silly things

& tragically, traditional custodians of our own nation 
— enemies real but more often fabricated 
to serve the current political narrative

wars which we endlessly celebrate 
in often mawkish, sometimes trite, 
occasionally deeply moving ways

but our biggest battle is all around us
yet most cannot see the war being waged
funded every day by billions of dollars

from multinational companies who believe
their right to profit outweighs a home
habitable by all — humans & animals alike

Day 25 — big dates raise big issues

25 Rosemary.jpg

As always, Anzac Day is highly conflicted for me. I had two grandfathers who served in WW2 in North Africa, the Middle East & Papua New Guinea & who thankfully both came home. I had a great grandfather & a great great uncle who fought in the trenches of France & one came home & one did not. I had another great grandfather who served with the Light Horse in Egypt & Palestine. He also came home. So the Anzac mythos is strong on both sides of my family. It is personal. However, at the same time, I find much of Anzac Day tokenistic* & backward-looking.  See below for my reasoning.

*Though there is something very communal & positive about the #AnzacAtHome & #DrivewayAtDawn movement as a result of COVID-19 which I like immensely. Perhaps this could be one of the ways forward, followed by street parties all over the country.

*****

the Anzac spirit

beware: today’s the day you’re most
likely to catch Anzacspiritus flu
an insidious disease that claims men
fighting on Gallipoli beaches
& trenches of the Western front
somehow forged our young nation’s
nature with five distinctive qualities:
mateship, humour, courage,
ingenuity, & endurance.

my perennial question —
how 256,000 men who rarely
spoke of their experiences
influenced the entirity of Australian
society’s then five millions
                          remains unanswered.

that said, i don’t begrudge a nation
built on these tenets
they’re a reasonable list — though
you wonder if they’re not in fact
lacking somewhat. maybe: compassion,
cooperation, freedom, security & equity
                                    could be added.

but instead of simply praising them
this one day of the year
let’s actually live by them.

there wasn’t much mateship going round
when toilet paper was being hoarded
& supermarket shelves stripped;
nor courage when it came to attacking
fellow citizens simply because they look
like where our current virus is from.
thankfully though our GSOH
has been highly evident through countless
memes, TP workout routines, etc.

my request is — if any politician
from the Prime Minister down
to your local council member
wants to cash in on the gungho glory
of Anzac then they need to spread
those five+ tenets to every decision
they make throughout the year.

let’s start using our brave, heroic,
foolish, flawed Diggers never ending
sacrifices to heal, to look forward,
                            instead of always behind …

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

Day 25 – poem about peace

cow-in-poppy-fieldCROP

Today is always a day of conflicting emotions for me. Been trying to resolve my attitude towards it for 25 years. This is one of the pomes that came out after percolating about it all day. I’m happy enough with it. Hope my googleTranslate French is accurate.

Voix parmi les vaches

All I’ve heard for a long time now
is French farmers calling their cows.
It’s a musical enough language
& everything sounds more beautiful;
but I do miss the Aussie drawl
And the sky over this western front
Is no where near as big as
the west where I was once from.

The sun has gone down.
All my comrades have grown
old, gone beyond. Joined me,
in their way. So let us sleep.
We are grateful for your thoughts
but our graves no longer want
or need your remembrances.
You offer us a minute of silence.

Let’s try it for a century,
see if we can let it all just, settle.

 

NB Very hitech technicalised tech issues meant I was unable to post yesterday’s NaPoWriMo post as intended. About quarter to twelve with the image chosen, the bulk of the text typed into this blog & most of the miscellaneous tags & faff taken care of, I was suddenly unable to type anymore: turns out the rechargeable batteries in my wireless keyboard had gone flat & being the organised soul I am, I had neglected to backup charge any for, oh some weeks…

 

Day 25 – The Year of One Day

Today is a controversial day for many. But it’s been good to me. The past 2 years now, I’ve got good poems out of it. Today I re-read Alan Seymour’s “classic Aussie play” The One Day of the Year, about the changing face of Anzac Day in the 60’s. I haven’t read it since uni, & ironically while it has dated, many of the issues it explores are still ones that people argue about today.

I began with its last line (Last Line, Gone) & continued from there…

the last post

i.

love its haunting frail warbly wobbly squeaky somehow off-key, off-kilter
voice trying to be courageous to death’s face but never quite succeeding
forlorn melancholy brassy vulnerability half-farting battlefield bravado
but most of all the strange perception that no matter how well played
it always sounds like there’s a note wrong in there — somewhere

ii.

yes, it’s time to turn off the taps we’ve had our last warning
your duty is done your time is over your rest deserves peace

last postCROP

The last line of The One Day of the Year is: “i’m a bloody Australian & i’ll always …