“There is Hell Waiting Here”*

The sandstone Sphynx bares its chest like a beacon above Anzac Cove.
Bleak, grey, weeping seas, diluted with the blood of thousands,
Johnnies and Mehmets both.
No beaches worth their salt, nowhere to land,
the King’s young allies culled by well-placed snipers,
like gulls cherry-picking chips.
Boats adrift on a current too strong to fight,
as the crouching boy-soldiers they carry towards certain death.
A battlefield spread thick with blood and bodies,
now a manicured lawn where daffodils, not poppies,
mark starkly simple graves on this remote Turkish shoreline.
Blood-red, high-rise seating clambers recklessly up the dunes
to honour the centenary of an ill-fated landing,
an ill-fated war-within-a-war.
A statue of a Turkish soldier in boots with turned-up toes
carries another gently in his arms:
a young digger, wounded, bleeding, delivered from no-man’s land
by a compassionate enemy wielding a white handkerchief.
A memorial, a pine tree, a speech, a soldier who ‘probably lies here’.
Sons, husbands, lovers, brothers, fathers, boys,
spend two hundred and forty days in hell-on-earth.
Victims, all, of a war of young men, a war of old men.
Sacrifices, all, on the altar of nationalism and greed.
A Turkish officer bestows tender words of comfort
on grieving mothers weeping on a distant shore.
Remember, remember with rosemary and wreaths
As I gaze on the graves of men,
enemies in life, allied in death
Flanked by my own tall boys,
Vision blurred, praying,
Lord give peace to the world.
Don’t waste our sons again on senseless war.

*the title is a quote from C.A. McAnulty, an Australian soldier killed at Lone Pine, above ANZAC Cove, August 1915, the poem is mine.

 

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