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No wonder the warrior-dead still weep

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Peter Gebhardt |  26 April 2016


Anzac Day and corporate Australia
On a small marble plinth in the park,
Names are inscribed on a plaque.
Let us remember them.
We will remember them
At the going down of the sun
and in the morning.
Bugles will blast, old cannons shudder.
And the jalopy planes buzz above.
Lest we forget.
They did not fight for profit,
They did not fight for gain,
A balance sheet was wholly foreign.
They were not insured against the pain,
No need to fudge the files.
You wouldn't find their names,
You wouldn't find their conditions,
You wouldn't find the definitions,
The language of futility, failure and falsity.
Dressed like mutton in duty and dedication,
in pride and sadness.
You cannot insure against lies,
Even when you're blind and out of mind,
Even when you cannot walk or talk.
They had a moral sense, their own brand,
Which we cannot now seem to understand.
It was shot and lost in the valleys and gullies,
In the waters and on the slopes.
Let us remember them
Faithful in our fidelity
to them         as they were
and thus, perhaps,
to us         as we might be.
The children are in the park today
Running, skipping and laughing,
They slide down the cannon, polishing the past
With freshly-pressed pants, a mother's delight.
'Always tell the truth,' the mother says,
'If you lie, you'll burn.'
The day is closing,
patient and gentle in its suffering,
but the great lies will not lie down.
lies breed lies like flies on
dead sheep
and the masquerade of maggots makes
its creep
it's no wonder the warrior-dead
still weep.
Really it is not surprising, the enchantment
When all the photo albums are unboxed,
And memory has to fashion a quickstep
To revive the wonders of visitations,
Which are now so distant, but so close.
Once we flew under a rainbow
In a small plane, you wouldn't see it
In one of those terrestrial target-mongers
Which hug their idea of heaven to tightly.
We know, sadly, we cannot make rainbows,
Even soap-bubbles blown skywards
Are no match, pale illusion, just bubbles,
Bursting, they billet in the distance.
The photos have their signposts
And we can walk where we walked before,
And the rainbow is a victory arch
Through which we go and face the bounty of entrances
And the sure exits off-stage to the green rooms.
We have to trust that rainbows will keep coming,
For we need them, they have their feet in the earth.


Peter GebhardtPeter Gebhardt is a retired school principal and judge. His most recent book is Black and White Onyx: New and Selected Poems 1988–2011.



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Submitted comments

I like the way your writing leaves me wondering,love your images of the children .Have you read any of the late John Dengate's songs? He wrote about Australia after the Second World War. Thanks

Pete 27 April 2016

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