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A VETERAN COMES HOME

They did not come home to cheering crowds
or bass drum's beat on Wellington's streets,
no victor's kiss or laurel wreaths
beneath the glare of corporate glass -
and no one smiled on the concrete miles.

But cynically, in civilian clothes
quietly in the night on ordinary flights,
coming home anonymous and shuddering inside
at the awful silence and safety
of Auckland's lights.

Just ordinary blokes
lighting too many smokes,
fidgeting in the airport's lounge
stunned into silence by the normality
and lack of dust and biting flies.

But reflected in their eyes
all the shades of green, things seen,
and funny too the way they moved
softly, as on broken glass
with whispered voice.

The promise of cobras coiled within
amongst the faces endless turning,
looking for shadows and the hint of danger
which now only existed deep behind
their hooded eyes.

Strangely unmoved by the flood
of emotion and tears of tight-clustered
lovers and friends, those slightly stooped,
young-old men who had killed on Friday
and come home Monday.

Well dressed, softly spoken, ordinary man
not quite knowing what to do with hands,
which for endless hot-sun days and grave-black
nights had cradled loaded rifles with intent
on distant sands.

Carrying still shattered mirror images
splinters in the back screens of their eyes,
and still hurting in the knowledge of friends
who had come home a different way -
embalmed and spirited away from public sight,
in Auckland's nights
.

John A. Moller
Whiskey Two Company RNZIR

 

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