Anzac Day 2011
My Dad never went to war.
Never had a hope.
Got run over by a cart at the age of ten,
spent years in bed, finally getting up
to walk lame, often with a stick,
always in pain, with a wound
that never healed, had to be re-dressed
daily — deep pink mercurochrome
painted on his white, exposed shin-bone.
He never went to war.
For Mum and me
he might as well have done,
sent away for months at a time
to a camp in Central Australia,
training for last-ditch invasion defence.
When he came home, I ran in fear
from his loud male voice, and didn’t understand
being banished from Mum’s bed.
He told me years later
that his best mate and next-door neighbour,
handsome Maurie Lightfoot,
was his Sergeant there. (What,
I wonder, was his disability? Maybe
eyesight; something invisible.)
Instead of ‘G’day Rob! How about a beer?’
it was, ‘Stand at attention, Private Robinson!’
Back home, they returned to normal.
His workmate, Allan Beecroft,
that gentle, friendly man,
he went to the war. He was
a Rat of Tobruk. Afterwards
he spoke of it very seldom.
He respected Rommel, he said.
And he told one story, of a man
who ‘put up his arm’, never used it.
It wasted; he got sent home.
I remember ration books,
men in strange clothes (uniforms)
and the doll I loved and still have,
Julie with the rag-stuffed torso
and plaster hands, feet, head.
My Mum cried to have to give me
such a cheaply-made doll
but I had nothing to compare;
to me she was beautiful.
My Dad never went to war
but the war was all around us.
In the absence of men of fighting age,
women were surviving for themselves.
No-one’s life was untouched.
Our Foreign Minister is remembering now
on television, speaking from France;
and my husband, who never went to war,
listens with his shoulders shaking.
(Not part of the letter poems I've been doing this month; inspired by a friend's Anzac Day poem.)