Colin F. Jones

TO A CONSCRIPT

~ 1 ~

No matter what you thought and felt, life was not your own,
You came to heel when called upon; you were not there alone.
You had no voice it was your duty to do as you were told,
For everything you did was by another man controlled.
You lived or died according to the orders he laid down,
The one in charge be he the best or just an f’ing clown.
You did some things you knew were wrong but didn’t have a say,
The army was filled with little Gods with the power to make you pay.
Through spite or whim you made your way to gain a higher rank,
But you were still a passenger inside a dictatorial tank.
And why you feared the man in charge more than the lethal foe,
Is something that goes back a bit to when you were a child you know.
For you were never taught my friend to challenge any law,
And brainwashed into thinking that your duty lay in war.

~ 2 ~

You did as you were told because you feared to refuse
For you did not have the right to speak, or have the right to choose.
For a right is based on those who have the power to do you ill
To send you to your fearful death and make you want to kill.
And so you did your very best like a tiger you did fight,
And won your medals of respect for doing what was right.
But all you did was protect yourself and try to survive,
For though the dead win accolades you would rather stay alive.
If you made it through to the end to be an old veteran just like me,
Then you know what you were fighting for had nothing to do with being free
Unless freedom was to shed the shackles that kept you in harm’s way,
Because in the end no matter what you did not have a say….
So all the hype the waving flags the speeches and the songs,
Mean nothing to the man who knows the war he fought was wrong.

~ 3 ~

Oh yes you did your duty; your duty was to kill,
And maybe you had learned your roll, attained a certain skill,
But you had no hate inside you, you had thought that you were free,
But now the time had come my friend to earn your right to be.
For that which gives you freedom requires the will to go to war,
To fight because you have to fight; not for the glory of the corps,
But for the right to love and worship, the right to say your piece,
The right to seek the truth and pray that war will someday cease:
The right to kick a football and to earn a decent wage;
The right to scribble down your thoughts on a cyber page.
Though all these things you may have won the demons in the night,
Will remind you that the war you fought could never have been right,
For there is no peace for you my friend, just bad memories and pain,
But you know if you were called upon you would do it all again.

~ 4 ~

And the war you bring home with you for it is never done,
Destroying the peace in families that you thought you had won.
Your wife lives in isolation; she knows her love is lost,
Your children are suicidal you don’t seem to care about the cost.
You blame the drink and politicians but you know that’s a lie,
You just don’t have the guts to face it that in war men must die.
Your duty is not over; there is still a whole lot more;
There are the rights of those you claim to have done all your fighting for.
But your only concern is with yourself, you think you’re owed a life,
But if you want to know what trauma is, ask your poor suffering wife.
Ask all those who love you; you know those folk who think you’re great,
Who went through those hard times with you, now need you to relate,
To life as it is now, not the way it was long ago,
Because life ends not in your night mares, not in your beer glass you know.

~ 5 ~

Oh sure you march on ANZAC Day and give the crowds a wave,
With medals glinting in the sun for you were Oh, so brave.
Look the flags are flying the brass bands loudly playing;
On the dais the robed ones stand with bowing heads and praying.
Beyond the celebration, beyond the wide oceans of the sea,
More soldiers and civilians are dying, as we stand here free.
The trumpets now are blowing to honour those who died,
A long two minute silence, then everyone moves to go inside,
To drink and be merry to enjoy this memorial day,
While I so sad and sorry leave the scene and walk away.
It is a strange military cult that draws our minds to war,
Telling us we must remember what we must all deplore.
Yes still we are the soldiers, in files and ranks and lines,
Shackled to the memory lest our will for war declines.

~6 ~

This year I go to a reunion of the unit with which I served,
We spent a year in Vietnam and the accolades were deserved,
I was asked to write a poem and I wrote it straight away,
So quickly that I thought for sure there’s no quality in what I say.
But I guess they think it’s special they want me to read it too,
It’s a long way down to Sydney but I guess now I must go.
It will be great to see those gunners with whom I spent my time,
Blasting hell out of an enemy so that I could read my rhyme.
In fact our unit went there twice, my tour was with the first,
But it’s a mixed reunion both batteries will coheres.
It is almost forty years; yet it seems not long ago,
When we were young and merry guns aimed towards the foe.
Most of the men are happy still most have good lives;
Most have grown children and understanding wives.

~ 7 ~

I was a professional soldier most of them were not,
I was a volunteer they were conscripts out of the pot
Their sacrifice was greater than any sacrifice of mine,
But though they were conscripted as soldiers they were fine.
They were taken from their normal world and sent off to war;
The military by their presence had never been as good before.
Some were not so healthy when they returned again;
Throughout most of their lives they have carried the pain.