Three days on Gelibolu (Gallipoli) for the 100th anniversary of Anzac Day after call up at fortnight’s notice in the ballot. Both my grandfathers were there, one for nine days, the other for the entire campaign. Guided by a local, Murat, I saw history through his eyes, shared tears more than once, and met his mentor Mustafa, before completing a kind of pilgrimage at the dawn service and memorials. I attempted to capture a few emotions amongst the myriad. Then struggled for a year until I landed on the single word at the end of the penultimate line.
Tread Lightly For You Tread On My Bones
Dad’s dad went ashore
And Mum’s dad too,
A narrow beach, of sorts,
Scrubby cliffs starkly in view.
100 year old trenches, snake and straight,
A few fresh poppies bloom,
Picked one to carry to Chunuk Bair,
On a pilgrimage of gravesites for the known few.
The rest lie entombed,
Beneath the soil we tread,
Reflecting and crying at the shame and the waste,
Of orders to charge, lives laid down for mates, not for generals.
Ataturk grew a nation from this,
Anzacs defined themselves too,
Many Brits, donkey tenders, medics, French, Irish, engineers, mostly Turks
Made up the half million wasted in 8 ½ months.
Do we despair or pay homage?
Is it for us, or for them?
A centennial of futility?
Or for glorious cause?
I weep with Murat,
Take the hand of Mustafa.
Two generations lost
On a peninsula of a generous host.
My heart now understands
What my head only felt,
That walking on bones carves
Wounds beyond help.
– Jeff Brown
Jeff Brown is a Paediatrician at Palmerston North Hospital and in the community of MidCentral DHB. He is one of those who started The Medicine Stories Project and has summoned up the courage to submit some work of his own, with a raw view of history rather than medicine, at least for this effort.