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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