Lest We Forget

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Row upon row, the crosses stand,
An army on parade,
Tended now by gentler hand
‘Neath verdant palisade.

Like silent sentinels, the trees
Stand guard here day and night
Though now only the bees
And vengeful magpies keep the fight.

No Sergeant-Major’s voice is heard,
No bugle call to battle.
The sound of leaves, by breezes stirred,
The call of distant cattle.

Baptised by mud and blood and sweat,
They heard their country’s call.
Waved off by crowds who then forget
And never see them fall.

From battle’s fertile fields, they’re borne
With honour to this place.
That we’ve not learned their lesson
Means yet more will meet their fate.

Though the lucky ones return,
It’s clear they’re never quite the same.
They, too, have paid a heavy price
Despite the victory claim.

Stephen Tomkins
3 April 2017
Sydney

Photo credit:
journalstar.com

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The Miracle Factory

Open all hours and open each day,
The Miracle Factory beavers away.
The Miracle Workers all wear special clothes
And speak their own language that no one else knows
With monitors, pumps and needles and tubes
And other cool gizmos that only they use,
Conduct arcane rituals from far distant lands
Attended by quizzing and laying-on of hands.

The Miracle Seekers, reluctant, attend
The Miracle Factory and hope they can mend
All kinds of ailments and injuries too,
In full expectation that they’ll all pull through.
But sadly, though, sometimes this isn’t the case,
And this is a thing that we’ll all have to face.
Still, in denial, we’d much rather stay –
In awe of the Factory that beavers away.

Stephen Tomkins
19 March 2017
Sydney

At a Loss

The fragile petals now will fall.
The leaves, of course, fell first of all.
And through it all she sits there still,
Living yet, against her will.

Her husband bravely does his best,
Including now a feeble jest.
She cried and cried, her tears now dried,
Since the day her baby died.

If only this, if I’d done that,
The self-destructive mental chat
Continues on inside her head
And fills her husband with such dread.

He prays she simply needs more time
To learn to deal with such a crime.
For now, he mourns not one but two:
The baby’s one, his wife now too.

Stephen Tomkins
14 January 2017
Sydney

Production Line

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Life’s factory conveyor-belt never will stop.
It races along and then suddenly drops,
Rolls under and hurries right back to the start –
To all things indifferent and lacking a heart.
We start when we land on the belt with a thump,
Well may we cry since from then on we jump.
Following orders as soon as we wake,
It’s chaos and frantic – no wonder we ache

To stop that betrayer-belt just for a while,
To regain our sanity, pause for a smile.
If in denial we didn’t persist,
The shadows we’re chasing would cease and desist.
And though the assayer-belt rolls on apace,
Reaching the end, we drop off without trace.
We only arrive there when our time is done,
Resistance is futile – it can’t be outrun!

Stephen Tomkins
15 November 2015
Perth

A Day in the Life….

The sun half-heartedly crawls out of bed
And very reluctantly slides overhead.
A veil of ice crystals is covering his face –
One more loathful witness to what will take place.

The Doctor now cheerfully strides down the line
Then gives me a wink to say all will be fine.
Through snow, slush and filth, still the railroad tracks gleam,
The train then appears, as if shrouded in steam.

The chill in the air has invaded my bones
And through the barbed wire, the icy wind moans.
When I ask my Sergeant what all of this means,
“Do your damn duty!” he angrily screams.

The train has arrived and the doors are forced open;
Out fall the people, exhausted and frozen.
With shouting and wailing, selection begins –
The Doctor continues to seek out the twins.

Oh! How did I come to be part of all this,
Since studying music was my source of bliss?
These people did nothing but sadly be born.
The fit and the healthy are stripped and then shorn.

There’s no way, it seems, to escape from this place
Without bringing me and my unit disgrace.
The air here is fetid and really does stink,
And I, when off duty, rely on the drink.

Stephen Tomkins
5 November 2015
Canberra

 Author’s note:
I would like to clarify that this poem is not an attempt to justify the actions of those who inflicted the Holocaust upon the world. They cannot be justified. Rather the poem is an attempt to find humanity where little, if any, existed.

Cecil

Zimbabwe Lion Killed

Cecil was a friendly lion,
Never harmed a living soul.
Didn’t stop a Dentist flyin’
In to seek his huntin’ goal.

He traveled up the Root Canal,
Noting his extraction point,
Cleaned and polished rifle pal,
Drilled with leaden needlepoint.

The tragic death of Cecil was
The catalyst for much debate.
Hunted down the Dentist ‘cause
His clients sought to litigate.

The death of thousands, strange to say,
Fails to register at all.
Unpeople, on our conscience, weigh
Hardly anything at all.

Stephen Tomkins
14 August 2015
Jakarta