Archive for ‘War’

Thursday, 16 September 2021

Soldier and Girl Sleeping by Sheila Shannon

(On a painting by William Scott)

It is late, already, it is night,
But still they wait still spin the moments out
There is time yet and they rest
Side by side on the hard station bench
For the train will come, will break
These two apart and bear the half way

Parting in love is not so hard a thing,
(Leaving with a crystal certitude
Wrapping within the pain a kernel joy),
As parting in love’s echo,
For outgoing love bears on its ebbing tide
All things away and is more sure
In its finality than Death

These two are sleeping now
She sleeps so lightly
Wavering on the further verge of waking,
But his stillness holds her firm
In the fixed circle of his dream,
She lies within the cavities of his being
The bright imagination of his heart
And through his darkened eyes sees not
The falling hand of Time,
Nor through his sleeping ears can hear
The tiger trains prowl in and out

They sleep
And parting has no time for them
Nor place to hurt them in.

From: Dickinson, Patric (ed.), Soldiers’ Verse, 1945, Frederick Muller Ltd: London, p. 23.

Date: 1945

By: Sheila Shannon (1913-????)

Saturday, 24 July 2021

Young Lady Dancing with Soldier by Phyllis Byam Shand Allfrey

Young lady dancing with soldier,
Feeling stern peaty cloth with your slight hand,
So very happy,
So happy
To be dancing with the patriotic male—
You have forgotten
(Or perhaps you were never concerned to know)
Last month your partner was a shipping clerk.

How, as he sat by his few inches of window,
This boy dreamed of ships and far engagements,
Battles with purpose
and future,
Fair women without guile, and England’s honour,
Comme chevalier
sans peur . . .

But instead he got conscripted into the Army,
And now you are the last symbol of his dream.

It is rather thrilling to be a last symbol,
Before mud clogs the ears, blood frets the mouth
Of the poor clerk
turned solider,
Whose highest fortune will be to find himself
Conscripted back
to life . . .
Done up like a battered brown paper parcel—
No gentleman, malgré tout; clerk unemployed.

From: Reilly, Catherine W. (ed.), Chaos of the Night: Women’s Poetry and Verse of the Second World War, 1984, Virago: London, p. 5.

Date: 1940

By: Phyllis Shand Byam Allfrey (1908-1986)

Thursday, 22 July 2021

Immensity by Mabel Esther Allan

You go at night into immensity,
Leaving this green earth, where hawthorn flings
Pale stars on hedgerows, and our serenity
Is twisted into strange shapes; my heart never sings
Now on spring mornings, for you fly at nightfall
From this earth I know
Toward the clear stars, and over all
Those dark seas and waiting towns you go;
And when you come to me
There are fearful dreams in your eyes,
And remoteness. Oh, God! I see
How far away you are,
Who may so soon meet death beneath an alien star.

Late 1940

From: Reilly, Catherine W. (ed.), Chaos of the Night: Women’s Poetry and Verse of the Second World War, 1984, Virago: London, p. 3.

Date: 1940

By: Mabel Esther Allan (1915-1998)

Sunday, 18 July 2021

Not Yet by Edith C M Dart

Someday I’ll know again, maybe,
All that once made Spring rich for me
Strange sense of beauty’s leaping thrill
At the first budding daffodil,
Swift echo of the blackbird’s song
Within the heart; the sudden throng
Of bud and flower the whole wood through
As when … I walked it, once . . . with you.
Surely I shall be glad again
For April meadows after rain,
For hawthorns white along the lea,
Sky bluer than a summer sea.
When years have gone, will earth not show
Once more her treasures ‘neath the snow,
Waking my heart with crocus gold
Against the darkness of the mould?
Shall I rejoice then o’er and o’er
In the great bounty of Earth’s store?
Maybe . . someday . . . when I forget.
Not yet, beloved, ah! not yet!


Date: 1920

By: Edith C M Dart (1873-1924)

Friday, 25 June 2021

Think of Others by Mahmoud Darwish

As you prepare your breakfast, think of others
(do not forget the pigeon’s food).
As you conduct your wars, think of others
(do not forget those who seek peace).
As you pay your water bill, think of others
(those who are nursed by clouds).
As you return home, to your home, think of others
(do not forget the people of the camps).
As you sleep and count the stars, think of others
(those who have nowhere to sleep).
As you liberate yourself in metaphor, think of others
(those who have lost the right to speak).
As you think of others far away, think of yourself
(say: “If only I were a candle in the dark”).


Date: 2005 (original in Arabic); 2009 (translation in English)

By: Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008)

Translated by: Mohammed Shaheen (19??- )

Friday, 21 May 2021

Everlasting Green by Susan Yuzna

They told us the green of Vietnam
Was so bright, it made your eyes hurt. They stood

In the doorway of the pizza parlor
In heavy boots, heads shaved, stomping for warmth,

These boys, our boys, shivering through their winter leave
As they told us appalling stories,

Giggling, darting glances at each other.
I can’t say we believed them. Who

Were these boys, gone not long, but so
Alien, they could have come from Mars?

They were bored with us now.
A friend’s brother came home spooky,

Spent every night shooting fireworks
Over the skies of Lake Calhoun

Until he re-enlisted, dying over there
In the bright green jungle, electric

As the morning my father gave up the ghost
Of a life gone wrong, deep in the frigid

Winter of my first year at college,
During the Tet Offensive, of all things.

Nothing was green then, not my tears, not one thing.

Upon returning home, one of them shot to death a family of five.

From: » Susan Yuzna Banango Street

Date: 2015

By: Susan Yuzna (1949- )

Sunday, 25 April 2021

The Letters of the Dead by Edward George Dyson

A letter came from Dick to-day;
A greeting glad he sends to me.
He tells of one more bloody fray–
Of how with bomb and rifle they
Have put their mark for all to see
Across rock-ribbed Gallipoli.

“How are you doing? Hope all’s well,
I in great nick, and like the work.
Though there may be a brimstone smell,
And other pungent hints of Hell,
Not Satan’s self can make us shirk
Our task of hitting up the Turk.

“You bet old Slacks is not half bad
He knows his business in a scrim.
He gets cold steel, or we are glad
To stop him with a bullet, lad.
Or sling a bomb his hair to trim;
But, straight, we throw no mud at him.

“He fights and falls, and comes again,
And knocks our charging lines about.
He’s game at heart, and tough in grain,
And canters through the leaded rain,
Chock full of mettle–not a doubt
‘T will do us proud to put him out.

“But that’s our job; to see it through
We’ve made our minds up, come what may,
This noon we had our work to do.
The shells were dropping two by two;
We fairly felt their bullets play
Among our hair for half a day.

“One clipped my ear, a red-hot kiss,
Another beggar chipped my shin.
They pass you with a vicious hiss
That makes you duck; but, hit or miss,
It isn’t in the Sultan’s skin
To shift Australia’s cheerful grin.

“My oath, old man, though we were prone
We didn’t take it lying down.
I got a dozen on my own–
All dread of killing now is flown;
It is the game, and, hard and brown,
We’re wading in for freedom’s crown.

“Big guns are booming as I write,
A lad is singing ‘Dolly Grey,’
The shells are skipping in the night,
And, square and all, I feeling right
For, whisper, Ned, the fellows say
I did a ripping thing to-day.

“Soon homeward tramping with the band,
All notched a bit, and with the prize
Of glory for our native land,
I’ll see my little sweetheart stand
And smile, her smile, so sweet and wise–
With proud tears shining in her eyes.

“Geewhiz! What price your humble when
Triumphant from the last attack,
We face a Melbourne crowd again,
Tough, happy, battle-proven men,
And while the cheer-stormed heavens crack
I bring the tattered colors back!”

*   *   *

A mist is o’er the written line
Whence martial ardor seems to flow;
A dull ache holds this heart of mine–
Poor boy, he had a vision fine;
But grave dust clouds the royal glow;
He died in action weeks ago!

He was my friend–I may not weep.
My soul goes out to Him who bled;
I pray for Christ’s compassion deep
On mothers, lovers–all who keep
The woeful vigil, having read
The joyous letters of the dead.

From: Dyson, Edward, ‘Hello, Soldier!’: Khaki Verse, 2005, Project Gutenberg: San Francisco, p.[unnumbered].

Date: 1915

By: Edward George Dyson (1865-1931)

Saturday, 24 April 2021

Anzac Morning in Orange by Warrick William Wynne

I thought I was up early,
almost alone
in the wide old streets
that run straight and long,
country-style, through this town,
and the trees already turning.
Until the inevitable park & statues,
one to Mafeking and one;
laden with flowers
bright and new as morning,
to Anzacs.
The park already empty
and the sound of bagpipes
somewhere in the distance.

From: Wynne, Warrick, “Anzac Morning in Orange” in Westerly, No. 4, December 1983, p. 54.

Date: 1983

By: Warrick William Wynne (1956- )

Friday, 23 April 2021

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.

Date: 1995

By: Andrew Burke (1944- )

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Aubie: Kokoda: 1988 by Elanna Lowes Herbert

after the ambulance
the final rush from home
swept up by your past
your breath your war
the coma begins. short.
sharp. rattles of phlegm
covet the vastness your
unchosen experience your
retelling untold
crinkle sheets hospital sterile
wrap the remains of memory
around a wasted body. coma
inductions strong as birthing
surface pull terror up clutching
clots of humid night thoughts your
war distils over a horizon
seeps into whiteness a
Canberra Hospital room cold
beyond the July freeze. we wait
slowly. occasionally fidgeting. drawn
into fear your life’s end echoes
battle foetid Kokoda
Ioribawa Oivi
Gona strange murmurings
mates’ cries your reply
their unheard calls our
witness. your chosen
breath shouts. sharp.
short. useless as pain at lungs
drowning lungs
dying is never that
moment. you prepare.

From: Herbert, Elanna, “Aubie: Kokoda: 1988” in Meniscus, Volume 6, Issue 2, 2018, p. 11.

Date: 2018

By: Elanna Lowes Herbert (19??- )