Anzac Day


Once everything is tried,
All we set out to do,
Nothing ommitted on our side
That courage is committed to,
Once men from every township have bent
Themselves into the throat of hell, when all
The smiles and cheers exploding as we went
From home seem pieces of a broken shell,

When all we are is here,
Flesh propping rags in mud,
Bones hollowed with remembered fear,
The passing scream, the distant thud,
The order in the dark, ranks moving up
Under the battlements of sighing earth
Before once more we swarm over the top,
War’s children at the moment of their birth,

Its horror hurrying forth
Amid the flare and wild
Report of guns, its east, west, north
And south all at once in one spot piled
And suddenly all torn apart, what was
A man now just a tumbling coil of wire,
A meadow flower at last wrapped up in grass
The farmer mows and carries to the byre

Before fetching his coat,
Returning to his wife
And children gathered in the home:
If something of us remains alive
At that time and our eyes collect like stars
Against his window pane, bright with desire,
Will we remember then the sacred cause
Our fathers read in columns by the fire?



In my country, the main national day commemorates a military catastrophe. People are encouraged to take pride in it as the triumph of the human spirit faced with overwhelming adversity.  Yet more men died than won medals for valour and, anyway, what value is a medal in balance with a life lost? I wrote the poem the day after Anzac Day. It seems OK for now.

Current edit: 21 June 2014


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