Poetry Reading, Bellingen – Anzac Day

The Anzac Day motto is ‘never again’ yet we seem to run to war

Poetry Reading, Alternative Bookshop, Bellingen

In Alan Seymour’s play, The One Day of the Year, Hughie Cook helps his girlfriend Jan write an article critical of the Anzac Day tradition (dawn service to puking up in the street from all the grog). This angers his father Alf, an ex-servicemen. But like with the Bard everyone has a voice. Written in 58, Seymour received death threats. I was Sydney convenor of Poets Against the war, and in 2003 we sent 10,000 poems to John Howard – this was one of them.


A black dawn – ponds brimming to the moss,
the ginger tom takes off when the back door opens.
No sign of the war. I refuse the news worried I’ll enjoy
the sight of F111s, beautiful machines, and take on
the narrative of harmless winning, of strategy and evil,
the mystery and misery lost in the hardware spin.

Tracer fire lights up the Baghdad skyline during Operation Desert Storm, 1991
Tracer fire lights up the Baghdad skyline during Operation Desert Storm, 1991

I dig out Forbes’ ‘Love Poem’ from the last Gulf War,
‘Spent tracer flecks Baghdad’s / bright video game sky.’
He was knowledgeable and ‘at ease’ ‘with military technology.’
The poem shelters loneliness and exposes truth
‘I watch the west / do what the west does best.’
but there’s now new military software and euphemism.

I’m in love and she loves me, at Cracow we ate wild boar
avoided Auschwitz because I’m a poet
and would have used the occasion to write a poem
unable to name all those slain by the celebrities,
names like Bianor and Oileus, Xanthus and Thoon,
all young men with parents, some with sisters, and lovers
in the good old days, all promising results from Cain, Abel
and Seth’s stellar nucleo-synthetic pathways.

Flexibility with robustness conserves self-assembled
warriors evolved, entropic, reversed, braced, backed
into a corner of earth, acolytes in ceremonies of war.
We have stolen their smiles and their memories.
We have borrowed their skins and furled them.
We have used their foreignness to fuel our apathy.

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