What do you say to a dying man?
Do you call him Bob, digger or mate
as you look at the face you have known so well
and the look in his eyes says: ‘It’s late.’
You recall the first handshake on a troop train,
with many men going to war.
Training in various military camps,
Wallgrove, Greta, Bathurst, Ingleburn and more.
To go hungry, have tired muscles and thirst,
The pub Duke of York where we had our last drinks
before leaving Australia’s fair shores.
A fleeting last thought of his loved ones
you knew from being his friend.
If you happen to live through this onslaught,
they’ll ask you about his life’s end.
Just three minutes ago he was so full of life,
firing bursts from a Bren at his hip.
The Platoon attacking as it had many times before,
when all of a sudden he’s hit.
A Japanese sniper, so deadly,
had fired from a dark weapon pit.
The sniper was caught by the last burst from the Bren,
and my best friend fell close to my feet.
“Tell them I tried” were the last words he said.
My words of goodbye froze on my lips.
Published in a book of Bede’s poetry ‘Poems of an Infanteer in the Firing Line’, Nerrigundah Publishing, 2011.