I ... entered the poem of life, whose purpose is ... simply to witness the beauties of the world,
to discover the many forms that love can take. (Barabara Blackman in 'Glass After Glass')


These poems are works in progress, and may be subject to revision without notice. Completed versions appear in my books. Nevertheless copyright applies to all texts found here.

25 April 2011

War Years

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.

Dad's 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.)

Submitted, 8 June 2014, for Poet's United's Poetry Pantry #205

24 comments:

  1. Rosie, lovely one, I enjoyed reading that. Started me onto a tangent of television and the images when I was in single digits in age still. So glad it was black and white but sometimes that can just show the emotion more with no distraction. I really hated the news but the adults just HAD to watch!!! Lovely poem lovely lady.

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  2. Thank you, Anonymous! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. :)

    And I wonder who you are? (No-one calls me Rosie!)

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  3. I understand this poem on a visceral level, Rosemary. My father never went to war either....but he told me about those days. My mother also used to correspond with soldiers from the place she worked who were in various war sites around the world. She enjoyed that aspect of her job. But...though my dad did not go to war he often talked about how it was 'at home' back then.

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    1. I have recently been talking to a 90-year-old who was a WAF in England during the war — fascinating stories, and sad.

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  4. i know of war mainly from those that have been there..i had uncles in vietnam and great uncles in ww2...i have seen how it can change people...so i understand it through that...i smiled at you thinking the doll beautiful...there is def a difference in the way kids see the world...

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  5. Heroes are found in unlikely places, no?

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  6. Rosemary, I live in an area where many of the WW1 battles took place and which was occupied all of WW2 so whether people had gone to war or not, we grew up hearing or seeing about the wars. They always impact people, some way or other.

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  7. even those who stayed behind went to war in a way. It touches everyone.

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  8. Ah Rose this one had me wound in its images from beginning to end and touched and surprised by the touching image of "his" shoulders shaking... brilliant

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  9. Yes, I too wonder who this Anon is, who leaves such lovely comments all over the place.

    Your poem touches those who have heard the stories of the ones dealing with the war on the home front. Effects as unsettling and longlasting.

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  10. Every day is a war for a women managing so much on her own.beautifully depicted the emotions.

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  11. Goodness, I was out all afternoon and came back to all these comments! Thanks to you all, and I'll be around to look at yours soon.

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  12. i was with you ..through out ..very nice Rosemary:)

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  13. My dad never went to war too but his family bore the consequences of war ~ The effects are long lasting ~ Very interesting share Rosemary ~

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  14. Hard and wonderful to see the war from the child perspective--everyone was engaged in the war effort, disabled, able-bodied men and women and children as well. My father whose leg, like your Dad's, required constant treatment had an air force brother in the D-Day invasion and an army sister in the nursing corps. On the home front he trained and participated in airplane sightings, both changed irrevocable by what they saw. Everyone rolled bandages and lived on rations. By the time I was born in 1951, the war was the Cold War and everyone here participated in that one too. I love the doll part of the story, the tears of Mom at finances, the shaking shoulders of dad.

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  15. The emotions in this poem were so heartfelt...beautiful.

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  16. that is very personally writtten... my mom was a child during ww II but she still can tell many sad stories.. her brother died when they played with tanks that were standing in the village

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  17. War is all around us. It is something beyond just only guns and bombs and destructions. It's more like a memory of fear being passed on---always haunting but not frequent as death. In this world, we have our own war song to play & win, & winning doesn't always mean to die, sometimes the courage we brought is more than enough to claim a victory against the ne'er ending music of war. Smiles.

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  18. Thank you for sharing. This is such a wonderful set of memories. I hope you keep a record with your family history.

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  19. yes, we often forget that war is so much more than the men that fight it, it is just as much the men, women and children who stayed behind.

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  20. this was very haunting. time stood still as I was reading your poem. such kind of memories gives me the chills. And I love the feeling. Have a great Sunday.

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  21. So powerful, especially the image of your husband, his shoulders shaking. A wonderful read, Rosemary!

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  22. My take on this was not about the war but about the many famous events that people live through but never actually participate in and how there is always some sort of reason for not having participated as if everything that happens in our lifetimes require more than our presence. Where were you when Kennedy was shot, where were you during Vietnam, On and On and On as if you haven't participated in life if you weren't in the middle of some world news event. . . . Me? I was living life as best I could.

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  23. Thanks to you all for the interested comments. Yes, life experience happens in all sorts of ways and I think we can't help but be affected by what happens in the world, even if not directly to ourselves.

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