Lest we Remember

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rsaregisteredpoppy
ANZAC Day is a sad, solemn day for me.

It’s a time for us as a country to pause and reflect on all those amazing lives we threw into the mincer of war for little purpose. A time to promise the next generation that we will never wantonly waste them for conflict of little justice.

It is good that this is the first ANZAC Day in a decade where our soldiers are not being asked to prop up a corrupt narco state in Afghanistan, because in that deployment we showed we have learnt little from our Poppy covered graves.

ANZAC Day shouldn’t be about not forgetting, it should be about always remembering.

That’s how you honour the dead for their sacrifice.

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The Gunner’s Lament

A Maori gunner lay dying
In a paddyfield north of Saigon,
And he said to his pakeha cobber,
“I reckon I’ve had it, man!

‘And if I could fly like a bird
To my old granny’s whare
A truck and a winch would never drag
Me back to the Army.

‘A coat and a cap and a well-paid job
Looked better than shovelling metal,
And they told me that Te Rauparaha
Would have fought in the Vietnam battle.

‘On my last leave the town swung round
Like a bucket full of eels.
The girls liked the uniform
And I liked the girls.

‘Like a bullock to the abattoirs
In the name of liberty
They flew me with a hangover
Across the Tasman Sea,

‘And what I found in Vietnam
Was mud and blood and fire,
With the Yanks and the Reds taking turns
At murdering the poor.

‘And I saw the reason for it
In a Viet Cong’s blazing eyes –
We fought for the crops of kumara
And they are fighting for the rice.

‘So go tell my sweetheart
To get another boy
Who’ll cuddle her and marry her
And laugh when the bugles blow,

‘And tell my youngest brother
He can have my shotgun
To fire at the ducks on the big lagoon,
But not to aim it at a man,

‘And tell my granny to wear black
And carry a willow leaf,
Because the kid she kept from the cold
Has eaten a dead man’s loaf.

‘And go and tell Keith Holyoake
Sitting in Wellington,
However long he scrubs his hands
He’ll never get them clean.’

James K Baxter
1965

4 COMMENTS

  1. It saddens me that even critical pieces use the word ‘sacrifice’ uncritically.

    Being thrown into a meat grinder for no reason is not a ‘sacrifice’. A sacrifice, by definition, achieves something.

  2. The whole idea that young men went off to war for their country is of course a complete nonsense. Most of them went on a boy’s own adventure and at no time did they think they might return in a body bag. They were carried off by the hysteria of it all. War is abominable it is murder, murder that is sanctioned by the state. I have often wondered whether soldiers that get to the top of their game ponder on how many ordinary innocent people they have killed in combat to get there. The current governor general comes to mind. I loathe all the medals that are on the uniforms and wonder what they are for and how many people were killed so that this person could flaunt this medal.

  3. This is my poem in honour of the dedication ceremony of the Tomb Of the Unknown Warrior at the National war Memorial a few years ago.

    Now a warrior (after 88 years)

    Skirling pipes, nineteen guns, TV chopper chatter
    A man’s old bones creep up Taranaki Street.

    In your last parade, the Navy’s in front – you left on a boat eh?
    Army, Airforce next – you flew home with honours.

    The cleanest Landrover ever; shovel, axe, pick head chromed – pulls the gun carriage, coffin flag-draped.

    The band. The band plays . . . quietly, big bass drummer in a leopard skin – animals must die too.

    At the War Memorial, solemn ceremony with amplified birdsong accompanyment –
    Tui, I will remember.

    Blessing your tomb brings the words – “sure and certain hope of resurrection.”
    Isn’t hope always a bit of a gamble?
    Can real people “march into history?”
    I’ll ask brother Blanketman, he’s here.

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