Sunday, April 22, 2018

Silence ANZAC Day 2018

My dad was silent about his place in the war

except to say that shells whizzed through the night

over El-Alamain seeking the army

of the Desert Fox. And that, sleeping on

those cold night sands, if you could, you would

wake to find a brace of scorpions

under your bedroll each morning. The tales of

my Uncle Don by contrast would enthral

us kids, how he'd dived behind a tank

with bullets ricocheting around his head...

No, my dad was mostly silent about

his place in the war. He had seen a Bedouin

carrying in a basket much prized eggs for sale

walk too close to the makeshift runway

and a Spitfire while landing had lopped his head

and everyone had jostled for those eggs.

I think that vision stayed; summed up war for him.

He did say that when the allies liberated

Rome he stood for hours in Saint Peter's Square

at a papal mass in celebration

of peace. Now, whether it was the fierce heat

or perhaps he was just overwhelmed,

he fainted and found himself inside the Vatican

where a kind and grateful priest gave him

a heavenly wine; scooped from the spring at Cana.

I recall that he and a fellow Airforce

mate were returning to base along a

valley track, maybe from a night out

in Perugia with those friendly effusive

Italian girls or maybe from a visit to Assisi,

'just us,' he said, 'not a soul to be seen'

and out of the sky swung a German fighter

with jackhammer canons raking the ground.

They dived in a ditch. 'What sort of human..?'

I recall as a young lad being on a hot

pebble beach at Deal where the Romans

had landed in 55BC. Granddad

had a handkerchief over his bald pate,

and a single engined plane zoomed over.

'Eee, exclaimed our Nan, 'I thought Gerry were back.'

We all laughed.

No, my dad never

celebrated ANZAC Day despite being

urged to do so by his boss.

In Dad's opinion

such marching and celebration

ratified the inhumanity of humanity.

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