Our boys were not the sons of Adonis
but slender saplings
grown rangy under dappled skies
slender saplings easily bowed by desert winds.

They were the ragtag offspring
of selectors, miners and factory hands
and stolid mothers
who prayed each day for safe returns.

They signed up at post offices and public halls
where weatherboards sagged with grief.
Determined officers marshaled them
for somewhere over there.

In trenches under Turkish suns
they ripened into mate ship
darkening like harvest prunes
wrote to freckled girls back home.

Upon return
they waved at crowded platforms,
tried to forget bandages and tourniquets
sand hill burials at dusk.

Settled into Mallee Scrub and Saltbush,
they spent silent years
eclipsing bullet stings and shrapnel blasts
and questions from wives and inquisitive sons.

John Collard

Written for the Peace Vigil 2012