The Enemy

Margaret Naylor

He moaned, the young Turk clad in charcoal grey,
eyes turned to where the foreign soldier lay.
He licked dry lips and cursed his shattered leg.
The enemy had water … he'd not beg.

"I reckon they've forgot us" – grating sound -
"I'll bloody cark it soon if I'm not found.
Here, mate, you thirsty? Have a go at this –
might do you good, although it tastes like piss …"

They shifted, reached across, the canteen passed.
"Just sips, don't know how long it has to last …"
Blue eyes met brown, pale hand met olive skin.
We're enemies? Reality seeped in.

"Where is your wound?" "Oh, you speak English hey?
I'm gut-shot, don't think I'll see out the day."
Ignoring thirst and pain, they spoke of home,
two nineteen year old boys, enmity gone.

"If I don't make it, will you go see Mum?
After the war, when things have settled some …"
The promise given, now he closed his eyes
and silence grew, save for the humming flies.

A long night passed before the medics came.
He marvelled that the dead could look the same,
just from the eyes the sparkle had gone out …
"Hey! Over here!" he heard the searchers shout.

And then, "It's Harry – and a bloody Turk!"
He moaned in pain as rough hands set to work.
"It looks like Harry's gone, but he's not bad.
We'll take him in and try to save the lad.

Across the world a dusty country town,
tiny oasis in a sea of brown.
An old man, wrinkled face and hair gone grey
puts on his uniform for ANZAC Day.

The march is off, with banners carried high,
a polyglot collection passing by,
a boy among the men, doing his best,
wearing Harry's medals on his chest.

Beside the boy, the old man marches proud,
eyes sliding sideways to the watching crowd.
And then he hears her voice "Onya Kemal!"
And Harry's sister smiles while he walks tall.

Bonded by war, his land and theirs both home,
this foreign race once foes, and now his own.
A promise kept that led to a new life.
His grandson here beside him, there his wife.

Blue eyes meet brown, thoughts in a distant place.
The Last Post wails, and now the pub awaits.
"Here, mate, you thirsty? Have a go at this –
might do you good, although it tastes like piss …"