Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Anzac Day, by John Forbes

I think this is now my yearly Anzac Day ritual.

"Anzac Day" is one of John's final poems, written in the year before his death in 1998. He didn't care much for soccer, being a rugby league follower. Cronulla was his team, appropriately enough given John's history of drug use. He and I used to imagine we were the only ones interested in rugby league in Melbourne literary cicles and so we'd meet to watch grand finals at his place or mine. This poem nails Anzac Day.

I wonder what he'd make of things 18 years on.

Anzac Day

A certain cast to their features marked
the English going into battle, & then, that

glint in the Frenchman’s eye meant ‘Folks,
clear the room!’ The Turks knew death

would take them to a paradise of sex
Islam reserves for its warrior dead

& the Scots had their music. The Germans 
worshipped the State & Death, so for them

the Maximschlacht was almost a sacrament.
Recruiting posters made the Irish soldier

look like a saint on a holy card, soppy & pious,
the way the Yanks go on about their dead.

Not so the Australians, unamused, unimpressed
they went over the top like men clocking on,

in this first full-scale industrial war.
Which is why Anzac Day continues to move us,

& grow, despite attempts to make it 
a media event (left to them we’d attend

‘The Foxtel Dawn Service’). But The March is
proof we got at least one thing right, informal,

straggling & more cheerful than not, it’s
like a huge works or 8 Hour Day picnic-

if we still had works, or unions, that is.

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