'War Cemetery' won first prize in the Peter Cowan Writers Centre Patron's Prize 2014.
Leading Aircraftsman Harry F. J. GUESS
RAAF 8.12.98 Age 75
Garden of Remembrance - South Australia
Here amongst red petunias the ghost ship of my
father’s Lancaster touches down
a final time, and all his wars are stilled in the
green wet spring of lawn: particularly the last.
An ex-prisoner of the Ashford Private Clinic -
all tubes and wires. And in the black and white
evenings a gaunt reminder of old newsreels.
Swathed in thin hospital cotton, his thin
emaciated shadow flickering on numb silent
hospital walls as he stumbles towards me
clutching at my arm. And are these my father’s
fingers? His huge workman’s hands come down
to this? that held the stick so true - flying north
flying north - looking behind me with morphine
sunken eyes. I ask about the pain and watch
his dry cracked lips reply. _Time to get on with it’.
Flying somewhere past me now - easy
with final coordinates; the logic of essential
logarithms and navigation and an antidote
to my banal and silly, already wilting questions.
My mother leans in on her stick to his new
fresh glinting plaque. Somewhere amongst her
souvenirs his last stubbed cigarette she kept-
five decades past. His final smoky kiss.
Does she think of that now - the last of leave.
A difficult time for both of them. Now flying back
to this soft terminal landing here. A consummate
quiet taxi up to the small brass cross
amongst a legion of memorials. My grief
is unresolved and hers - so unrequited,
as she stares and stares into the empty cabin
of the morning for one who isn’t coming home.
©Jeff Guess 2017