Neil Milliner (Australia)
A Frightened Old Man
I can see you, scared old man, cowering underneath that towering, trembling tree,
I can see your old man's eyes looking nervously around at all you see.
What have you to fear old man? You surely can't be scared of these few children or of me,
Or do you fear that when we look at you one fragile, feeble male is all we'll see?
I can see you old man, all alone and, almost foetally, hunched up on the town parks hard and unforgiving chair,
I wonder when I see you why an old soldier just like you is all alone and frightened sitting there?
You gave your best years for this nation and for the freedom that we have you should be sitting proudly on a gem-encrusted throne,
But an old park bench is all we have to give to you as thanks for all that you gave up for us and all that you had so bravely done.
Do they know you fought our wars for us? Do they know, for us, you killed a thousand men?
Do they know about the medals and the stories that you could tell about what really went on then?
Do they know about the toll this took on you; the gas, the gangrene, the bullet wounds and shrapnel that you still carry to the bench here every day?
Do they know the sight of humans dead and dying and the smell of humans set afire and frying still gnaws at your soul and never ever goes away?
Yet you gaze with moist-eyed fondness and affection seeing plump and well-fed children playing happy, safe, and carefree ‘cross the way,
While you and sit and sup the peacetime pension's meagre rations that they resentfully dish out to you which keeps you living-starving so this nation can keep its cold-shouldered thanks giving from you for another thankless day.
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