Poets in wartime


A walk in the park

Sunday afternoon, summer, sunny, almost
clammy, the little hand stretched up for
companionship, security across the generations.
The Shrine seemed to get in the way as we walked
up the hill to the Botanical Gardens, all lush
green and refreshed after the heavy mid-week rain.
And so it was, happy families, ice creams, Potter
children's playground, wriggling children
congregating in their uncoordinated steps up the
flowing stream, like insects at a creek. Eventually
it came, on the way home, gently. He and I were
thanked for taking off our hats as we entered
at the top of the steep steps of the Shrine,
the solemn darkness of the main columned space,
the light streaming in past bas reliefs of war, bravery
and valour from an earlier age. Outside it was the simple
questions about war and death and injury. Somehow
the answers did not fit the logic of the four-year-old.
Down at the bronze 'Cobbers' sculpture, death
and life became clearer and muddier. This week
unable to sleep he walked in on the news and
the war in Afghanistan, but was swiftly ushered
away; too much reality in one week.

Tony London


Those who stayed behind: an ANZAC poem

We are those who remain, once callow now bent in weariness
Life's breath no longer robust
The single purpose once so clear, now confused
Our futures so simple but overthrown

Cowering in sacred fields, ducking the booming retorts from those murderous
machines we cradled our weeping brothers
We miss not the cloying sludge, the stench, the bleak resignation
Your ultimate gift is not lost in a fluttering of years

O for a day without comrades bloody fallen
Lovers in guttural grief, shrieking, sobbing
And mothers in stoic dignity, mantillas drawn tight
Our heroic flame, corralled colts brazenly waiting, cruelly snuffed

Have we learned nothing my friend?
Lives torn, bodies twisted and broken, need we ask
Ruing life's slips and trips and misused chances
Lamenting faltering love and starry optimism unfulfilled

John Templeman


Poets on strike against another war in the Middle East, 2012

Strike! What else can you do to stop war as a poet
And the prologue to carnage gets going? so bleak coming on
The familiar old tension builds up and the wild surge below it

Turns leaders to strutting and pomp they're ripe to bestow it
The US is bristling with weapons which want for a song
And a strike is about all you can call if you're only a poet

A grenade in your hand? Is there nothing to do but to throw it?
We poets seem slight? but we recognise war-ringing wrong
As the pressure builds up from the energy surging below it

Yes call us all wets but where wickedness speaks then we know it
It's the same human species to which we cling fast and belong
There's not much one can do to stop war as a lesser-known poet

If we put pen to paper with words it might even blow it
Should we try calling 'halt' with a blast of a horn or a gong?
Speechless we'll stand and we'll query the need that's below it
And we'll ask you to ponder a symbol a lone muted poet 

Jill Sutton

Tony KevinTony London is a retired independent school principal. He now divides his time between running an olive grove in WA, volunteering with Tibetans in north India, and writing. 

John Templeman works in the project management and delivery of transport projects. He dabbles in writing as a hobby. 

Jill SuttonJill Sutton is proud to be an amateur and a generalist. She appreciates poets who focus on their global citizenship. 

Topic tags: new australian poems, Anzac Day, war, Afghanistan



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Existing comments

Thanks to the above poets for therir eloquence.
Poets try to identify feelings that can be indefinable - that paradox of words. There however can be nothing more mournful, sad or searching the sound of a lone bugler on the horn for the last post.
Jenny Esots | 25 April 2012

Enjoy? Humans can be very slow learners, unanswered prayers while children are still suffering.
Sue Anderson | 05 May 2012


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