WHERE POPPIES BLOOM
© Brenda Joy

Winner, 2015 The Blackened Billy verse competition, Tamworth, NSW.

If Mother Earth could speak this is what she might say from the soil of Flanders.

You arrived when I was mangled
by the lust of men entangled
       in a battle for possession of my precious Flanders’ soil.
Just a boy so young and willing,
unequipped to face the chilling
    harsh reality of wartime ‘Front’ of agony and toil.

You would change my life forever
through your courage, skill, endeavour,
       but I knew you in your night-times when your heart would over-flow.
Then you’d whisper wondrous stories
of Australian Outback glories
    where the wallaby and kangaroo and wild bush creatures go.

And you’d dream of sibling sharing,
all the joys of home and caring,
    till I’d see your mother crying as she bid her last farewell.
But you looked toward her, waving,
‘Coo-eed’ out in youthful craving,
    while her tears portrayed the pain of loss that only love can tell.

How I’d feel your ache of yearning
as you longed to be returning
    to the freedom of the country which had given you your birth,
while all I could give was trenches,
smoke and gas and vile stenches,
    far from beauty of belonging on the other side of Earth.

But I held you through the rages
of the battles and the stages,
    through the ravages of winters and the years of guts and gore,
till I lost you.  Devastated
by your death that left me fated
    to be scarred with foul detritus of a futile, bloody war.

After combat it’s ironic.
Tales of loss become iconic
    when a slaughter ground of chaos grows to make a nation proud.
So your service is remembered
where your body was dismembered
    and your honour is imbedded in a legendary shroud.

And they come and weep in mourning
when the light of day is dawning,
    and the hymn of their condolence conjures visions of your plight.
But they cannot know the sorrow
I must feel as each tomorrow
    I’m reminded of your torment through your tiny cross of white.

Now my fields of gold surround you
and my re-birth would astound you
    when the gentle breeze of summer dances through the waves of corn,
but your tragic wartime story
blooms in blood-red poppy glory
    that my dew-drop tears still moisten in the early mists of morn.


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