C for Charlie

© Heather Searles

Winner, 2017 Bronze Swagman Award, Winton, Queensland.

A man lay in the burns ward, with his face towards the wall.
He couldn’t bear to see a soul; no visitors at all.
He’d been a fighter pilot but his plane had caught on fire,
and although it landed safely, his injuries were dire.
His face was burned and blackened, stripped away by scorching flame;
all twisted and distorted; life would never be the same.
He wrote with deepest sorrow, to the girl he’d planned to wed,
and begged her to forget him, and just think of him as dead.
While trying to imagine life with features so grotesque,
his thoughts were interrupted; some commotion at the desk.
A voice rang out assertively, while steps came walking through.
‘Oh, Mary Ann,’ thought Charlie. ‘Could that be really you?’

A girl in army uniform then stood beside his bed,
and Charlie’s heart surrendered, to the moving words she said:
“I waited for you Charlie, while you fought in this campaign,
and prayed with all my heart and soul, to see you home again.
I see your face so clearly and your wounds are bad, I fear,
but still you are my Charlie, and to me you are so dear.
I’m not the girl you left behind, I’m stronger now than then —
my hands are rough and work stained; I’ve done the work of men.
Through times of deep and dark despair, I’ve learned to trust my luck;
when war supplies were running low, I drove an army truck,
and worked on signal stations sending messages offshore.
I helped to keep our coastline safe and shipping lanes secure.

Across that sheltered harbour, out towards the open sea,
I’d watch that far horizon that was linking you to me.
My heart would send a message, ‘C for Charlie, are you there?’
And in my dreams you’d answer, ‘C for Charlie, on the air.’
For you were out there somewhere, and I firmly believed it true,
that somewhere in the Universe, my thoughts were reaching you.
I could feel your love surround me and sense your presence too,
and hear your voice so clearly — “C for Charlie, missing you.”
My voice was one of many drifting onwards to the sea;
all yearning for their loved ones — they were hurting, just like me.
But many hearts were shattered, when so many lives were lost!
The freedom of our country came at such a mighty cost.

It’s up to us to carry on and work with willing hands,
To honour all those gallant souls who died in distant lands.
And Charlie, for your service, you have paid a chilling fee;
you sacrificed your beauty to keep this country free.
Don’t try to hide the scars you wear, but face the world with pride,
so all may see the beauty, that you carry deep inside.
Though life may not be easy, things can never be the same;
I shall always stand beside you and be proud to take your name.
The war is over, Charlie, and our tears have all been shed,
so take my hand in yours now, for its time to leave that bed.
You heard the voice that crossed the sea, through waters white with foam;
Now, you’ve been returned to me; C for Charlie — welcome home.

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