Thursday, September 22, 2011

For Jack. Written at Gallipoli, 21 September 2011

For Jack (Captain John McIntyre)

You landed here.

You, your friends from Kal, the training camps,

and from the ship transporting men and horses,

to your first taste of war.

You landed here.

And today’s blue waters still look stained

with the blood of men shot down

as they set foot on Turkish soil.

And today’s cloudy skies

echo still with cries of surprise, and fear and pain.

You landed here.

But family history says little of the days, the nights.

Did you, once landed on the beach,

scramble on through undergrowth, take shelter

among trees, in trenches swiftly dug

wherever clay earth would yield?

I know no tales of you or the men, who

followed you, their captain,

of how you survived where others died, on shaly hills,

among the cypress and the guns.

You landed here.

And did you see that camaraderie

grow between two countries’ foes,

that shines within the Anzac legend,

where Turkish soldiers bore the Aussie privates

to safety and to solace?

You landed here.

But left your friends and comrades,

some roughly buried,

others in their trenches, melting into the Turkish countryside,

to remain forever part of this most challenged shore.

Today we remember them in neatly ordered rows

beneath the peaceful shade of oaks

in scenes that quite belie the chaos

of those two hundred and forty days.

You landed here – and left.

And there are no stories of your going.

Were you stretcher-borne,

from field hospital, to waiting ship,

thence to a safe recovery?

Or did you press further inland,

before obeying the army’s call

to leave the Dardanelles and move on to another

field of war, in France?

You landed in France, where you remain.

In Sommieres, at end of day, a ricocheting bullet

did the work the Turks had failed to do, when,

having left the trenches, near the tents,

you fell into your best friend’s arms,

and now lie beneath a wooden cross.

The only relic that reached home,

the New Testament from your left breast pocket

that still bears the bullet’s furrow.

Anzac Cove, Gallipoli. Wednesday 21 September 2011

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