honouring Bruce Dawe and the war dead
Once a month they’re bringing them home
they’re picking up pieces, they can find
and bringing them home.
They’re bringing them in piled in Hum vees
on top of convoys of APCs and the occasional tank.
Zip-locked in black plastic and labelled
in the coolness of Kabul’s one stone mortuary
They’re ticking names off lists, cross checking
tags and numbers, bagging and boxing and flagging them off
In cargo choked Hercules bumping down furrowed runways
sullen, slow and whining they lift to the air
They’re bringing them home to the bush doomed towns
and the wide prairies of dry cracked
The pomp and circumstance, the ceremony and prayers
candles and condolences, the litany of goodness
his honour and bravery indelible in metal and ribbons.
But the touch of his skin, the warmth of his body
the smell of his neck in summer, your name
called out, at his moment of coming
then white sheet-swirl snugness and soft kisses
All frozen and silenced by the shroud
in the coffin you cannot open.