Anzac Day March: The Mateship and All by Andrew Burke

Again our son marches for Skin,
his great grandfather on
his mother’s side, in the Anzac Day parade.
I don’t want to tell him about
the kitchen commando, the drunk waster.
He marches for an ideal and
an innate sense of Aussie mateship. They’re
true enough. His mother and I
watch the parade, have a coffee
during the speeches. Our son is
a born leader, doing the right thing
since he was tiny. We have marched
to a different drummer …
After the march we drive home,
my wife enthusiastically recalling
old codgers on parade. Young Aussie males
cop her scorn more often than not …
It’s definitely on her mother’s side, only
infant males and old men get the nod …
We arrive home and turn footy on TV.
I see the son of a park drunk playing
for the opposition, wearing a black armband.
His dad was unwell last time I saw him —
I held him up to shower in a detox centre,
then shaved his cratered face. He was
losing a battle in ‘Nam. The next day
we watched footy on TV. He leant forward,
‘That’s my boy, in the pocket.’
‘Yeh?’ I was impressed, ‘Ya want me
to find ‘im, tell ‘im you’re here?”Nah,
we’re worlds apart, he wouldn’t wanna know.’

These gladiators are heroes of peacetime.
The unarmed combats are in the bars
and kitchens where the umpires look
the other way and nobody wins.
‘Did ya see that?!’ my son yells, amazed.
I’ve got to say I didn’t see anything,
wrapped up in my own tales of mortality,
a park drunk’s son kicking two goals in
the first quarter, the commentators
proclaiming ‘a new lease of life’.
Skin never met the boy who marches for him,
never saw him ruck in Sunday footy, or
open the bowling against the breeze. Skin
was a real bastard when it suited him,
an Ocker of the old school, but
who’s to judge … Let he who is
without sin, I say, and leave it at that.

From: Burke, Andrew, “Anzac Day March: The Mateship and All” in Westerly, No. 2, Winter 1995, pp. 25-26.
(https://setis.library.usyd.edu.au/ozlit/westerly/all/250449.pdf)

Date: 1995

By: Andrew Burke (1944- )

One Comment to “Anzac Day March: The Mateship and All by Andrew Burke”

  1. I like the contemporary Aussie poems, Julie. Actually, it’s amazing how many decent poems you’ve found, of all nationalities.

    Dick Greene

    On Thu, Apr 22, 2021 at 9:31 PM From Troubles of The World wrote:

    > flusteredduck posted: “Again our son marches for Skin, his great > grandfather on his mother’s side, in the Anzac Day parade. I don’t want to > tell him about the kitchen commando, the drunk waster. He marches for an > ideal and an innate sense of Aussie mateship. They’re true” >

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