Sunday, April 26, 2015

Poetry Pantry #249

Poetry Pantry #249
Photos by Conscious Cacophony

Rocky Mountains in Alberta, Canada.

Just outside the town of Canmore, Alberta.

Grassi Lake at the top of Grassi Lake trail, also outside of Canmore, Alberta.

There is something so peaceful, to me, about a bench by a lake! And a log bench...even more so!

From the top of Sulfur Mountain looking down at the town of Banff, Alberta and the Banff Springs Hotel.

Lake Louise

Greetings, Poets!

I don't know about you, but I am looking forward to a feast of poetry today.  I know many poets are winding down their participation in NaPoWriMo. I am sure some will be sad when it is over and others will welcome a more relaxing May!

Thanks to Conscious Cacophony for the beautiful photos today!!  They make me want to visit these mountains for sure.

I think by now most of you know what Poets United has to offer.  Besides the Pantry on Sunday and Monday, we also have Susan Chast's Midweek Motif on Wednesday of each week.  It is pretty cool how she always gives us a hint the week before of the following week's prompt.  Sherry Blue Sky and Rosemary Nissen-Wade also have their Monday and Friday features.  Just keep checking back, and you are bound to discover something interesting here.

If you would like photos from your area (or from a vacation you have taken) to be featured in the pantry, do let me know.   Both CC Champagne and Sara McNulty have answered my call.  Smiles.

So, please link one poem below.  Also stop in and say hello to us in the comments.  And, please visit other poets who link, as we all enjoy comments.  Have a nice Sunday / Monday!

Friday, April 24, 2015

I Wish I'd Written This

And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda
By Eric Bogle

When I was a young man I carried my pack
And I lived the free life of a rover.
From the Murray’s green basin to the dusty outback
I waltzed my Matilda all over.
Then in nineteen fifteen my country said, Son
It's time to stop rambling 'cause there's work to be done.
So they gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun
And they marched me away to the war.
And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As we sailed away from the quay
And amidst all the tears and the shouts and the cheers
We sailed off to Gallipoli.

How well I remember that terrible day
How the blood stained the sand and the water
And how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter.
Johnny Turk he was ready, he primed himself well
He showered us with bullets, he rained us with shells
And in five minutes flat he'd blown us all to hell
Nearly blew us right back to Australia.
But the band played Waltzing Matilda
As we stopped to bury our slain.
We buried ours and the Turks buried theirs
Then we started all over again.

Now those that were left, well we tried to survive
In a mad world of blood, death and fire
And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive
But around me the corpses piled higher.
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head
And when I woke up in my hospital bed
And saw what it had done, I wished I was dead,
Never knew there were worse things than dying.
For I'll go no more waltzing Matilda
All around the green bush far and free
For to hump tent and pegs, a man needs two legs
No more waltzing Matilda for me.

So they collected the cripples, the wounded, the maimed
And they shipped us back home to Australia.
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane,
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla.
And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay
I looked at the place where my legs used to be
And thanked Christ there was nobody waiting for me
To grieve and to mourn and to pity.
And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As they carried us down the gangway
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared
Then turned all their faces away.

And now every April I sit on my porch
And I watch the parade pass before me,
And I see my old comrades, how proudly they march
Reviving old dreams of past glory.
And the old men march slowly, old bones stiff and sore;
They're tired old heroes from a forgotten war,
And the young people ask, "What are they marching for?"
And I ask myself the same question.
And the band plays Waltzing Matilda
And the old men still answer the call
But as year follows year more old men disappear
Some day no one will march there at all.

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda,
Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me?
And their ghosts may be heard as they march by that Billabong,
Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me?

Note: Waltzing Matilda means carrying your pack.

Pardon me, friends, for being blatantly Australian this week. Tomorrow, April 25th, is Anzac Day. In fact it's the centenery, a very big deal here.

ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, and Anzac Day celebrates one of our major defeats in war, the Gallipoli Campaign of World War I. I guess only Aussies and Kiwis would celebrate a defeat! It goes along with our Anzac Day slogan: Lest we Forget. The people of that time vowed never to forget our brave young men who were slaughtered. (I don't know how the Canadians got into this video, but never mind — the song is really about any and every war.)

By now Anzac Day honours all our servicemen and women who fought in various wars. Those who returned march if they can, in the big cities and also in small towns and tiny hamlets. Those who did not return are remembered. The descendants of those who have died, either in the wars or back home later, march in their place, wearing the medals of their fathers and grandfathers. 

We went through some decades of having very divided opinions about Anzac Day. As a young woman, I was one of many who saw it as a deplorable glorification of war. Since then we've all grown up a bit and have come to agree that, while war is indeed deplorable, those who serve and sacrifice deserve our respect.

Eric Bogle is always described as a Scottish folk singer,

famed for his iconic song 'The Band Played Waltzing Matilda', plus multiple other hits over fourteen albums. His songs have been recorded by Joan Baez, Mary Black, Donovan, Slim Dusty, John Williamson, Billy Bragg, the Pogues, and the Furies. He has toured extensively, appearing at every major folk-and-country music festival in the world. His awards include the Order of Australia medal, and a UN Peace medal for promoting peace and racial harmony.

You can find out more details about him at his website and at Wikipedia.

He migrated to Australia in 1969, and wrote this song in 1971. Ever since I first heard it, I wished I'd written it! I am not alone in admiring it. His Wikipedia entry tells us:

On 25 January 1987, he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for his work as a singer-songwriter. In May 2001 the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA), as part of its 75th Anniversary celebrations, named his song, "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda", as one of the Top 30 Australian songs of all time.

It contains some anachronisms, e.g. the Diggers (Anzacs) didn't wear tin hats but what Wikipedia describes, in its article about the song, as bush hats, which we call slouch hats. 

At the time it was written, we all understood the lines, 'But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared / Then turned all their faces away' as a pointed reference to the returning troops from the Vietnam War, and their treatment by the Australian public. There was huge opposition here to our involvement in that war. New Zealand was already forging its own separate identity and contributed as few troops as possible. Successive Australian Governments re-introduced conscription just before our involvement was announced, and then took us 'All the way with LBJ' despite the massive protests of the people. So we did not immediately celebrate the returning soldiers, which only exacerbated their psychological scars. Eventually they demanded the respect that was their due, and we finally matured enough to give it.

Here is a lovely, recent interview with Bogle, about his original inspiration for the song (yes, Vietnam) and the second thoughts he now has about it. But, for all the controversy, I and most Australians still think it's a great song and a moving one.

My favourite version is by singer John Williamson, with his broad Aussie accent. However, except for about half a bar on the mouth organ, he leaves out the final lines quoting from 'Waltzing Matilda' itself, the unofficial Australian national anthem. 

I was one of the many who thought it should have become the official anthem. If our greatest national celebration is for a military defeat, why can't we larrikins also have an anthem about a homeless sheep thief who committed suicide by drowning? 

Both reflect our anti-authoritarianism, based in our convict past. One pertinent feature of the Anzac story is that the inexperienced officers, both British and Australasian (but we like to blame the Brits) made many mistakes which resulted in the huge loss of life among ordinary soldiers — who, according to legend, could see the stupidity of the decisions but had to obey orders.

In any case the song, 'Waltzing Matilda', has a haunting ending to do with death, self-sacrifice, and the refusal to give in to tyranny, which (only slightly altered) makes a very fitting close to Bogle's song as well. 

One of the influences in our reconciliation with the Anzac story was the movie Gallipoli, made by Peter Weir and starring Mel Gibson and Mark Lee. It gave us perspective, I suppose — though it too, like Bogle's song, shows the pain and futility of war. I don't think anyone who saw it can ever forget the iconic closing image:

I won't be attending a dawn service tomorrow; I'll be home nursing the flu. But I'll probably turn on the telly to watch the Sydney march, and I'll probably shed some tears.

Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Poets United Midweek Motif ~Earth Day or Earthiness

“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost's familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.” 
― Rachel CarsonSilent Spring (1962)

"Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. The earth is sacred and men and animals are but one part of it. Treat the earth with respect so that it lasts for centuries to come and is a place of wonder and beauty for our children.” 
Extract from Chief Seattle.

“The Earth is what we all have in common.”

Midweek Motif ~ Earth Day
or Earthiness

Today, 22 April, is Earth Day.  On Earth Day we get "down to earth" ~ We pay attention to how to care for our planet more than one day a year.  I laughed at this "Wiki-How" article until I read it:  
How to Be an Earthy Girl: Love the earth and want to be more of an "earthy girl"? Here's some advice to help you achieve this naturally, and with a minimum of fuss.
Check it out HERE!  

Your Challenge:  Write a poem celebrating the earth, earthiness and/or attempts to help the earth live. Feel free to address only one aspect of the issue. 

Workers in Port-au-Prince
Workers in Port-au-Prince building rock walls and planting vegetation
as ways to save arable land and avoid flooding in lower areas.

UN Photo/Logan Abassi

For a Coming Extinction


Gray whale
Now that we are sending you to The End
That great god
Tell him 
That we who follow you invented forgiveness
And forgive nothing
. . . .
(Read the rest HERE at The Poetry Founndation


by Al Gore

One thin September soon
A floating continent disappears
In midnight sun
Vapors rise as
Fever settles on an acid sea
Neptune's bones dissolve
Snow glides from the mountain
Ice fathers floods for a season
A hard rain comes quickly
Then dirt is parched
Kindling is placed in the forest
For the lightning's celebration
Unknown creatures
Take their leave, unmourned
Horsemen ready their stirrups
Passion seeks heroes and friends
The bell of the city
On the hill is rung
The shepherd cries
The hour of choosing has arrived
Here are your tools

by Mary Oliver
Here is a story
to break your heart.
Are you willing?
This winter
the loons came to our harbor
and died, one by one,
of nothing we could see.
A friend told me
of one on the shore
that lifted its head and opened
the elegant beak and cried out
in the long, sweet savoring of its life
which, if you have heard it,
you know is a sacred thing,
and for which, if you have not heard it,
you had better hurry to where
they still sing.
And, believe me, tell no one
just where that is.
The next morning
this loon, speckled
and iridescent and with a plan
to fly home
to some hidden lake,
was dead on the shore.
I tell you this
to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open
and never close again
to the rest of the world.

(I lifted this poem from "Heartbreak, Violence, and Hope for New Life" BY PARKER J.PALMER (@PARKERJPALMER), WEEKLY COLUMNIST for On Being with Krista Tippett, I did not ask for the rights, I so wanted to use it with such short notice. Please forgive me. I love you.) 


For those who are new to Poets United: 
  • Post your Earth poem on your site, and then link it here.
  • Share only original and new work written for this challenge. 
  • If you use a picture include its link.  
  • Please leave a comment here and visit and comment on our poems

(Our next Midweek Motif is Justice or Poetic Justice.)

Mister Linky's Magical Widgets -- Auto-Linky widget will appear right here!
This preview will disappear when the widget is displayed on your site.
If this widget does not appear, click here to display it.