Amongst Fifteen Wounded Men
Under another cloudy sky
my grandmother stands
amongst fifteen wounded men.
I wanted them to be young,
and strapping, and larrikin.
But, as they look into the camera
they whisper things to me
that flash and burn my memory.
The fog of the day settles.
They are chilled as they gather close their
Their neatly parted hair shows a control they crave.
But, the confusions, the smell, the noise
and the terror are all there in clenched half smiles,
in darting eyes.
My grandmother’s hands rest with priority
on the gloved man’s wheelchair.
He holds his side protecting the broken rib,
the torn abdomen.
His eyes do not focus on the camera.
They dwell in an anger, a madness of pain.
In a destiny reshaped by brutality.
Sister Collopy and Patients the photo is titled.
My grandmother seems impish and full-fleshed,
not the way I ever knew her.
For a few fleeting, nightmarish weeks
these people were thrown together, entwined in a mistake of history.
To be repeated.
To be continued.
I smell the slow burn of the 1918 flash,
And see the men move stiffly to pick up their hats.
They help each other across the road to the hospital
As Bernice wheels her man
Each bump echoing pain.
Margaret A Whitten
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital