Rust  Never  Sleeps

      In light of the unprecedented and out of character racial tensions that had emerged in Sydney (December 2005), this poem may indeed be appropriate. 

                  “What Vietnam has given us instead of a bloodbath is just a vast
                        tide of human misery ... hundreds of thousands of homeless
                             people in U.N. camps, many more dead or in flight and
                         unknown thousands still drifting the high seas, later to be
                      up-rooted and hounded in foreign countries around the globe.”

                                                                             - Tom Wicker in the New York Times, 1979.

Rust  Never  Sleeps


​On a cruise of the harbour,
A few friends with me,
Luxurious views all around us,
As we ate fruits from the sea. 

Bobbing masts, moored yachts,
Busy ferries churned by;
Surface glistened in sunlight,
Beneath a crystal clear sky. 

As a changing vista revealed,
Things I’d not seen before,
An Asian man and his son,
I noticed, nearby on the shore. 

Both laughing and pointing,
To things all ’round the bay;
Just enjoying this scenery,
On a bright summer’s day. 

And I pictured his memories,
Things a boy cannot know,
As the father stared out to sea,
Images of long, long ago. 

Perhaps of a time, when they,
Lived on just hope and a prayer;
Now this beautiful country,
Exists for them too to share. 

As the ‘Coat Hanger’ looms,
Tiny men paint it steel grey;
A ceaseless battle is waged,
Preventing this icon's decay. 

All these structures before me,
Comprising part of this scene,
Have replaced natural beauty,
That was once coloured green. 

A shoreline quickly changes,
Nothing is free or for keeps,
And complacency has limits,
Because rust never sleeps.




My mind rewinds through the years,
Like film, on video shows;
Scenes of adjacent towns falling,
Like lined-up dominoes. 

Until it ceased on that day,
That long battle finally won;
Palace gates flattened by a tank,
In the heart of Saigon. 

A yellow star on a red flag,
‘A new way through the blood!’
Yet for little reward most peasants,
Still toil in rice paddy mud. 

So thousands sailed a course,
In search of strange foreign lands;
Entailed forsaking one’s soul,
For freedom’s welcoming hands. 

A king’s ransom as payment,
A one-way trip, a nightmare;
Leaking overcrowded old junks,
To any port, anywhere. 

In poor conditions for weeks,
Trying to simply survive,
Pirates and foreign harbours;
Lucky to stay just alive. 

Mal treatment ’twas common,
Like prisoners in gaol;
Determination, nerves of steel,
Searching liberty’s lost trail. 

Four decades now, since then,
For some, hell hasn’t ceased;
Providing support is our role,
We owe them that much at least. 

Their iron will is so strong,
Ingrained, ’tis quite deep;
Yet, intolerance is corrosive,
Because rust doesn’t sleep.


*
 
A concept deep down within me,
Bubbles up to the surface;
In this cauldron, a message,
From history’s fiery furnace. 

Burning love of this country,
Passionate pride that I feel;
Rhetoric transforms as a purpose,
Forged as strong as new steel. 

That day always seems distant,
When we’re called in defence;
So when we’re asked to stand up,
Will we remain on the fence? 

Has youth’s flame extinguished?
Isn’t our blood green and gold?
Do we keep deathly silent,
Blame it on being too old? 

Past debts dismissed, like Kokoda,
Lazy days slip into nights;
Blind eyes once turned to Timor,
Switching off truth’s searching lights. 

Neglect eats at this framework,
Of legacies left behind;
Our inheritance lies in danger,
As egos shut down each mind. 

Let us not stay complacent,
Forget pioneers gone before,
Nor lists of Kooris and migrants,
On our Honour Rolls of each war. 

Reinforced steel is like ‘mateship’,
Don’t let it fade to mere rust;
Remember it’s such a short time,
Till Death turns us to dust. 

Or like an insidious cancer,
Consuming us, it defeats;
                                   Iron words insufficient,                                   Because rust never sleeps.


©






44th Boat Arrival in Darwin - 1978