Australian bush poetry, Australian poet, Australian traditional poetry, Formal poetry, poem, poetry, Shell shock, World War 2
To join his brothers he was keen.
In forty two at just nineteen,
With both he sallied of to war.
Though never under fire before,
Courage he showed, no lack of will,
But no rejoicing at the kill.
But then there rolled a hand grenade,
And with his life Pat almost paid.
Upon a stretcher he was placed.
With morphine were his veins then laced.
A brother’s hand upon each knee,
Pat asked: “What will become of me?”
“You’ve scored a homer”, they replied;
But twice under the knife he died;
For fragments lay close to his heart —
Cold iron with which he’d never part.
Evacuated back to home,
Not buried under foreign loam,
He thought now of the future peace
When murderous war would wane and cease.
So back to health young Pat was nursed,
For by good fortune he was cursed.
Brought back to life when all but dead —
“You’re fit to fight again.” they said.
Too much to ask of one so young,
Scarred by the blast and by the gun;
And in the morning he had fled.
A note his elder brother read:
“I’m sorry Noel, I’ve done my best,
I’ll wait this war out in the west.”
A tear ran down a weathered cheek;
Noel knew that Pat was far from weak,
So three words with a steady hand
He wrote: “Brother, I understand.”
The two boys fought three more campaigns;
Were members of the few remains.
They both returned in forty five,
And thus did all three boys survive.
Then Pat came back to pay his dues,
And to the state his honour lose;
But all three brothers then embraced,
For each had death in battle faced.
But Pat, the guilt bore all his life —
Cared for his mother, took no wife,
Trod the straight path, and bless his soul,
Revered his brothers, Ron and Noel,
Who kept his secret — his great shame —
They knew that he was not to blame.
And when he lay on his death bed,
A doctor turned to me and said:
“Those scars upon your uncle’s chest —
They’re battle scars, we all have guessed.”
“A hand grenade”, I then replied,
“It’s not the first time he has died.”
— D.N. O’Brien