Gallipoli

The boats left
laden with men and streamers,
and my son.
And the people, great crowds
that spilled down Queen Street
onto the quay,

held out tiny blue flags to the boats,
as if the whole city
wanted to grasp,
just one more time,
the fingertips of those
who had already departed.

Then letters came sailing back
over that same thread of ocean,
that all who remained behind
feared would fray.

He wrote of Gallipoli,
poetic names that
leaped from my tongue.
He wrote of fierce seas,
fierce men, fierce disease,
and the fiercer sun
that flung its own bullets,
claimed its own share.

This was not your homeland,
this was not your history.
But the men persisted there,
they wanted a chronicle,
they would rush up that hill,
they would fly headlong
into a myth.

And when the ships came home
across the kneeling sea,
he wasn’t one of the cheering men.
And in their own way
the crowds that came out were changed

by the holes in the parade,
the fallen confetti.
But they persisted in their ardor,
and made of my son
a nation,
and set him in stone
where I can no longer mourn him.

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014

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