A few poems in the anthology are copies of other soldiers’ work. Several are written by girlfriends and wives left back in Australia. They always express hope that they’ll see their men again, as in these two verses:
24th Jan – A visitor arrived at the Housing flats but, before getting out of his car, was assailed by a tenant spewing the loudest tirade of abuse yet heard in this street. It was about money paid as maintenance for her 2 granddaughters – $50 a week. Her vocabulary was quickly exhausted, so for about 10 minutes she repeated two obscene words several times in each sentence.
25th Jan – I noticed when I knock on a door gently to wake someone, only the knuckle of my middle finger does the knocking.
26th Jan – A manuscript appraiser suggested I break up my translated text using a dinkus.
27th Jan – My breakfast-on-the-deck was better than usual: I saw a possum curled up in a corner of the roof guttering. Turned out she was hiding something…
28th Jan – As I drove onto the bridge to cross the lake, I had to slow for 15 horses and riders and a black and white sheepdog in my lane.
The wedding of an Australian General Hospital sister, approx. 1941. The church is the Basilique Notre Dame d’Héliopolis, Cairo. I’ve written a little about the church here, and included a photo of the whole structure.
The nurse probably worked at the hospital in Kantara (also El Qantarah and several other spellings), Egypt, close to the Suez Canal. My father may have known her since he was a patient in this hospital, but he didn’t record her name.
A wedding in the middle of a war zone. A triumph of hope over reality.
19th Jan – A 19 year-old girl, just returned from 6 months abroad, told me her best moment was arriving in Istanbul at night and going into Hagia Sofia. I thought of the unlikelihood of me knowing what this was, except I’ve studied art history.
20th Jan – A metallic violet Police ute drifted past me; number plate: RAPID 3. Its black and white checked stripe followed the lines of the ute, the back end of the stripe dissipating in the wind speed.
21st Jan – A very British architect interviewed on radio said you have to tickle the boxes. For 3 seconds I imagined how I would tickle a box, before I understood he’d said tick all like tick’ll.
22nd Jan – I was standing alone on the beach at 8.30 pm, the light almost gone. An adolescent boy rolled onto the sand in an electric wheelchair. For a few moments it was just him and me and the vast ocean. He did a u-turn and went back to the park behind the beach.
23rd Jan – A distant relative rang after 9 years of silence and within seconds was asking me for help with French pronunciation.
The title of this poem couldn’t be simpler: Thoughts.
My father was thinking and writing and, it seems, regretting his decision to join the volunteers heading for the Middle East. Here’s the first verse:
In the album I found a few photos of Arabs snapped in the simplicity of their daily lives. This one really narrows it down: a shadeless desert, a man stopping to pray, a curious and patient camel. Bowing over his mat in prayer, the Arab blocks out the Allied soldier behind the camera lens, and the complications of war.
14th Jan – I tried to tear up some poorly framed photos I’d had printed for 10 cents each. How disappointed I was to feel the photos resist my cranky hands. The Kodak XtraLife II paper has a top layer of plastic that won’t be torn. To destroy it, I had to go in search of a pair of scissors and then cut, cut, cut. Where’s the satisfaction in that? Tearing up a photo, especially of an unpleasant face, is one of the great pleasures in life.
15th Jan – Watched Gone with the Wind for the first time in 30 odd years. In the hospital scene, some long dark shadows cast onto a wall didn’t move exactly as their owners did. The shadows seemed to have been filmed and attached afterwards.
16th Jan – My husband uses an old wardrobe in the shed for tool storage, and the possum uses it as a hideaway:
Jan 17 – I received a letter from Germany in an envelope made from a paled scan of a letter I’d written myself.
Jan 18 – My lady butcher’s hands are red, like she’s had them deep inside an animal’s flesh. But they are that colour even when clean. I said, ‘Your hands have been working hard,’ and she said ‘Yes, I have ugly hands.’
Like this week’s photo challenge, the following poem and its miniature illustration also have a peaceful theme. My father was in the Middle East in 1941 thinking about the sun rising in his home country. I give you the first of four stanzas.
This week, it really was a challenge to find a photo in the war album that suited a peaceful theme… I like this one of the sun rising behind the pyramids, though even this photo has a disturbing darkness.
13th Jan: Tonight I saw 2 unusual things near a fish & chip café where I had dinner: a curious sign and a creeping tree beanie.