AFTERBIRTH 1915



There is no Gallipoli, Kallipolis, beautiful town -
too classical.
There is only Gelibolu Yarımadası
under a dawn blood-red as a poppy,
yellowed bones sprout from crumbling clay,
wire, wild thyme and rosemary
(that’s for remembrance)
on the wrong beach where the buoys and boys drifted
into the narrowed crosshairs of peasant soldiers.
New World and Old World, and modern nations born like dragon’s teeth
at the end of an adventure, taken around
the world in imperial puttees, bowled out.
Learned in school:
                                    “E is for Empire, for which we would die!”
Hoarse screams for the Ottoman in a previous century
in an oxidised landscape.

Fatigue descended on leg and shoulder
of those not yet mown down by Turkish guns
and the sea moved in and out like the shuttle on a loom,
and those that lived a little longer gave thanks
and in those few prayers slaughter was forgotten
and again, for a moment,
they were bank clerks and farmers’ sons.

A stone’s throw down the Hellespont
and five thousand years away:
Troy, and Achilles sulking in his tent,
no less nor more futile than that lethal shore,
the distance inconsequential as Greek and Anzac
push their way blindly into history.

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