Last April 25th
The Australian and New Zealand nations come to a standstill on this day each year, to remember their war dead and the sacrifices made by service men and women and their families during a long history of international conflicts. The haunting ‘Last Post’ is bugled in cities, towns and villages right across the two lands as we all pray that no more parents, spouses and children will have to endure the suffering of many of their forebears. However, in our hearts we know full well that that prayer is likely to forever remain futile.
* When I wrote this poem it was 2002. Sadly, with Iraq and Afghanistan, the last verse has become 'apropos'.
♪♪ And so now every April, my old comrades they march, Reviving past dreams and past glory; So I push my wheelchair ... out onto the porch, And watch the parade pass before me.
Old men march slowly ... old bones stiff and sore;
Tired old heroes from a forgotten old war!
The young people ask: ‘What are they marching for?’
And I ask myself the same question. ♪♪
- Eric Bogle (modif.) from the song : And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda, 1972.
Last April 25th
Silent tears had been shed,
Caused by words that were read,
And when the bugle had begun to blow;
So when the crowd had dispersed,
My thoughts soon immersed,
Into memories of a long time ago.
As I strolled down by the shore,
Reminiscing flashbacks of war,
It was just about breaking dawn;
I thought back to that time,
About young men in their prime,
Wondered where had all those years now gone.
Reds and gold mixed with blues,
And traces of all other hues,
A panorama right across the sea;
The surface just like a lake,
A sleepy town not awake,
No one present, except only me.
A new day was now dawning,
On this Anzac Day morning,
Images of a beach, far, far away;
Yet here, no screaming and dying,
Guns barking, bullets flying,
After all, this was not Suvla Bay.
And nor was it next door,
Along that peninsula’s shore,
Where mere ‘boys’ were turned into men;
Here, no futile reckless slaughter,
No blood staining the water,
In a nightmare that seemed without end.
A stranger emerged from the dark,
Walked down from the park,
And shook my hand, as if to say: “Well done!”
Chattering there for awhile,
I thanked him with a smile,
And walked off, into that then rising sun.
As I ambled along,
With my few medals that shone,
I pondered about what war had to teach;
And ’twas sad to confess,
Not very much, was my guess,
Perhaps peace is beyond all reach.
And those flowers that adorn,
Those ribbons that are worn,
Will there be more again at next year’s?
Will again young men be dying,
New parents distraught and left crying?
Will the rhetoric still ring in our ears?