THE LAST POST
© Heather Knight, 2010.
Winner, 2012 'The Graham Fredriksen Award', North Pine, Queensland.
A silence descends on this sobering place,
as the shadows grow long and enthrall.
A chill in the air is caressing my face
and my eyes are transfixed on the wall.
A reverent hush as the crowd starts to mill,
in a courtyard with names on a wall;
no talking or shuffling as all becomes still
and the bugler begins his sad call.
My mind is attuned to a time beyond now
and to boys who were forced to be men;
they quickly discarded their shears and the plough
with a promise to come home again.
I listen, absorbed, to the sorrowful tone
and my mind in a trance is adrift,
reminded of boys who were only on loan
and whose time on this earth was too swift.
I see them embark with their horses and gear
as they march to the strains of the band,
a lingering kiss for a sweetheart so dear
and a wave to the crowd on the strand.
I picture the ANZACS approaching the shore
and the blood running out with the tide;
a nation was born as they died by the score
on a beach with no places to hide.
I see all the dugouts in valleys of sand,
hear the deadly report of a gun,
men breaching the trenches with rifles in hand
in a battle that couldn't be won.
I picture those boys who did not have a chance
as they fought in the sludge and the snow
and rows of white crosses in wintery France,
where the bullets and cold were the foe.
My thoughts are disturbed and I'm keenly aware
of a shiver that's tracing my spine;
the call of the bugle is drowning the air,
as the shadows and dark intertwine.
A silence descends on this sobering place
as the bugler completes his sad call.
A tear trickles slowly, caressing my face,
and I weep, for the men, on the wall.