I Marched For Him

© David Campbell

Winner, 2015 John O’Brien Festival Poetry Competition (Theme: 100 years of Anzac), Narrandera, NSW.

I marched for him on Anzac Day when I was just a lad;
my father said we had to pay respect for all we had.
“He died for us, we can’t forget the sacrifice he made,
and we’re forever in his debt, his memory can’t fade.”

    Hear the bugle call, see the wounded fall,
    weep the first of many tears
    as we learn the cost of the lives we’ve lost
    down the long and lonely years.

I marched for him on Anzac Day through teenage years as well,
my head held high as if to say: “I know you went through hell
at Sari Bair, and all I’ve read of Monash and his men
brings pride, despite the many dead, for they were heroes then.”

    Hear the drumbeat sound over broken ground
    where the trenches hide the slain,
    and the dying cry to a foreign sky,
    for they’ll not see home again.

I marched for him on Anzac Day when I became a man,
tradition that I should obey the only way I can,
despite the thoughts that plagued my mind at questions that were raised
about those leaders who were blind, and campaigns wrongly praised.

    Hear the words of doubt, the debate about
    what was done, the why and how,
    try to comprehend how the grief might end,
    for we’ve men still fighting now.

I marched for him on Anzac Day the year our son was born,
and in his mother’s arms he lay to welcome that cold dawn,
though photographs are all he’d know, in faded black and white,
of one brave man who fought the foe, and vanished from our sight.

    Hear the anguished cries when a soldier dies,
    hear the sweethearts, daughters, sons,
    when there’s no known grave for the lives they gave
    in the thunder of the guns.

I marched for him on Anzac Day in step beside my son,
his medals proudly on display, a new start now begun
for one more generation’s sake to keep his name alive,
a tribute that might help to make his legacy survive.

    Hear the steady beat of the ghostly feet,
    as the drumbeat echoes still,
    where they march through time for an ancient crime
    on a bleak and distant hill.

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