Maureen Clifford © The #ScribblyBark Poet
The shells burst all around he felt himself thrown to the ground
in a shallow hollow, face down underneath a velvet sky.
In khaki soaked and dusty, wet with blood – metallic, rusty.
He was hanging on for grim death and he didn’t want to die.
As battle roared and raged he quite expertly had gauged
they weren’t making much progress. Johnny Turk had pinned them down.
So in pain excruciating he lay bleeding, tired and waiting
for John Simpson and his donkey and his last ride out of town.
He woke as dawn was breaking with cold and shock now shaking
his entire body, but his eyes could still see on the shore
bodies coloured red and khaki. All were still – then like the larks he
started singing in soprano. Eulogies for those no more.
He clutched a sprig of something, a tiny twig of something
which he stuffed into his pocket though he couldn’t tell you why.
Two medics with a stretcher said “Just hang on mate we’ll getcha
out of here as quick as lightning - you’ll be home soon, by and by.”
On that bloody field of battle where the deadly bullets rattled
he had left a leg behind him that would be of use no more.
Though he brought back to Australia little of his old regalia
he still had that sprig of Rosemary plucked from that brutal shore.
Now old – he’s back in Sydney, near the bridge where as a kid he
played and larked about with other mates who’d died upon that beach
beneath those cliffs so fearsome. And on stormy nights he hears them
as the thunder and the lightning bring them back within his reach .
There beside the front verandah in a spot that warms the sandstone,
is a bush whose brimming blossom mimics periwinkle skies .
He will forever hold them in his heart; mateship enfolds them
when he picks Gallipoli rosemary, salt tears brim in his eyes.