I came here with my mother first. Later
she bought a house nearby. I walk here still.
There are new names, new rows of plaques
and new blank walls to fill.
One Anzac Day my mother and I
walked through Perth, she in her nurse’s cape,
after the march. I saw with apprehension
a crowd of drunks. I looked to escape
as they sprawled out of a pub, a couple fighting.
(My boarding-school had taught me fear
at eight years old.) I tugged her sleeve,
urged her to cross the road as we drew near.
They were loud, had bottles, were staggering,
blocking the pavement ahead.
I pulled harder at my mother’s sleeve.
“Oh, they’re all right,” she said.
She walked on. The brawling old diggers stood
bare-headed, hands on hearts, until she passed.
Some cried “Good on you, Sister!” Some saluted.
“Why are they doing that?” I asked.
I think I know the reason now.
I place three poppies: one for my own dead,
one for a hero I knew, one at random.
The West is glorious in gold and red.