Sunset at the Perth War Cemetery

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.

Leave a Reply