Friday, March 25, 2005


in the midst of our
never was
he was
Stewart Brisby

There it is! Dad saw it winking up ahead. On the slow
rise. A Browning. Its delayed yackety-yak plastering
millions of pine needles. "You two, get over there!" Dad
and some old Codger got up and began their zigzag
through the trees and out along the field. They were running
up into hundreds of rounds that petered and twisted
just out of range. So far so good. Each time they crossed,
they looked at each other from under their stoops. "You still
alive?" or "Me too!". Anybody's guess. They got as far
as where the dirt coughed-up, and fell onto their stomachs.
Codger then crawled to Dad (he was seventeen) spitting soil
and asked him if he wanted to stop for a smoke. It was his first.
He would only give up after his heart attack. Dad is Tony,
but he was G√ľnter then. No German names in the forties
in Australia. But in France, below the bullet-sphere, he sputtered
his first filter-less. There was a lull. Just a couple of guys
lying in the sun. Ducks flew south and a skein of clouds
ravelled overhead
. Warmed up by their run, the panic backwashed
onto their calm, and they shivered. "So what if we get to them?
We're retreating anyway!" "You have a point," Codger replied.
"We've fought hard in our own style." They laughed. "Chipped
at the crust like Hindus, as they say!" Codger took a last drag.
"Yes, we've done enough today for the Fatherland". And they scrapped
back to the trees. They were court-martialled. Dad spent
the rest of his time at the front delivering soup. Once, as he was
carrying a full tureen in each hand, a volley of mortars puffed out
in the canopy overhead. A cocktail of leaves and branches fizzed over.
He looked up, he was flat on the ground, he felt his own warm blood
running down his shirt and pants. The hurt would come soon, ... soon...
Nothing. He stood up and walked back to the wagon, still holding onto
the empty handles. He shone in the dark with his cigarette.

I like this poem, George. I was thinking of your dad the other day as I was out walking by the coast.
Thanks, Bernard. Dad told me this story in the 1980's. The line "Wir haben heute genug fuer das Vaterland getan" (We've done enough today for the Fatherland) is a line dad distinctly remembered. He laughed every time he quoted it to me. It reminded me of the poem "Sprawl" by Les Murray. If you know that poem, you can recognize that dad's line is a good example of sprawl.
Yes, like the bloke who chopped down his Bentley to use it as a ute.
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