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WHAT SHE TOLD ME OF THE WAR (poem) - Adam Aitken - Australia - Poetry International

 
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WHAT SHE TOLD ME OF THE WAR
Were they cruel masters I asked, referring to the Japanese.
By entertaining the invader, she said, then poisoning their rice
they could have been free. For a day perhaps.
But no one had the heart to take a life.
She smiles, beyond the guilt implicit in the thought,
smiling as she often does, like an appeasement
as if to say
why do you ask?
Are you not proud that no one died fighting?

She remembers the planes, supposed ‘allies’
vanishing into the thunderclouds of their
own making, falling into history’s frieze
in some strange monsoon called war.

I imagine aeroplanes overgrown with vine
leaking kerosene into a khaki forest
somewhere in her rural childhood,
a mission failed, a missing pilot
taking refuge from an angry mob.
But they weren’t really, they were innocent enough
and each day’s target was a decent meal
(half an egg perhaps) and rice for the next.

If anyone fell out of the sky, they did not
deserve death by fire: who could say
if the cloud was a parachute or the parachute
was a cloud. If they contemplated war, they lacked
its tactics, they lacked technique.

So when the commander sat down, he commended them
on a beautiful meal (fresh chicken, carved fruits)
then fell asleep
with its pleasant memory.