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2018 Traditional Verse

3rd Prize

3rd Prize

Too Ancient to Bleed
Brenda-Joy Pritchard

Charters Towers, Qld

Ghost of a ‘Coo-ee’ one hundred years on,
wandering spectre of ages long gone,
looking at life through my transcendent eyes –
endlessly destined to bleed.
Thoughts stalk the labyrinth eons of mind,
lost in a limbo, unable to find
rest from the chaos of Earth’s battle cries –
watching descendants still bleed.

After Gallipoli’s heart-rending pain,
we rallied round to the Coo-ee refrain
leaving behind all the joys of our youth –
wife, bearing-child, left to bleed.
Nineteen fifteen, “…war to end all the wars”,
we were infused with the Coo-ee March cause;
we were the patriots fighting for truth –
willingly forging to bleed.

Lads volunteering to serve and obey
anxious to join in the Empire’s assay,
filled with belief that our purpose was right –
not knowing how we would bleed.
We fought the stench with each gas-laden breath,
wallowed with rats while surrounded by death
wailed with the agony, froze up in fright –
buried in trenches to bleed.

Son of my fruitfulness, I never saw,
grew up to fight in a Second World War,
filled with the faith of his dead father’s dreams –
one among millions to bleed.
Chaos and turbulence, blood staining years,
men, just past boyhood, enmeshed in their fears,
suffering battlefield’s cruel extremes –
grandchildren orphaned to bleed.

Son of my son found the Vietnam war,
camouflage tactics not known of before,
different horrors but still the same curse –
youth sent on missions to bleed.
One more descendant had died a young man.
Next call to arms was in Afghanistan.
Death did not come but perhaps even worse –
all of his lifetime to bleed.

Father returned from the desert-scape Hell,
haunted by nightmares too cruel to tell,
caught in the turmoil of sanity’s loss –
wife and son share in the bleed.
Five generations of lads of the land
fighting in conflicts they don’t understand,
crucified youth on a false Southern Cross –
causing our loved ones to bleed.

Tragic account of my off-springs’ descent,
mothers and orphaned boys left to lament,
surely it’s time for an end to the fights. –
“Challenge the order to bleed!”
Too many crosses on too many graves,
too many heroes that history saves,
too many killings for each nation’s rights –
“Please put an end to the bleed!”

“Must it pass on to the children just born –
blood-stained inheritance, love left to mourn?
What have we gained for the sacrifice made?
Must we continue to bleed?”

Lifetimes of slaughter and warring must cease.
I cannot leave till my seed is at peace.
Spirit of youth from the Coo-ee brigade –
I am too ancient to bleed.

Judge's Comment

This is a more conventional poem in terms of content as, using Gilgandra’s Coo-ee March for inspiration, it deals with the horrors of war. But the structure makes it stand out, with the double use of the word ‘bleed’ in the fourth and eighth lines of each stanza hammering home a strong message about the terrible aftermath of war.

Author's Comment

I am delighted to be the recipient of third prize in the inaugural Sutherland Shire Literary Competition. As an individual and as Promotions Officer for the Australian Bush Poets Association, I thank all concerned with the conception and organisation of this new competition on the traditional rhyming verse calendar. Also thank you to the sponsors and Sutherland Shire Council for the very generous allocation of prize monies.

This competition would not have been possible without the generous support of our sponsors