Fathers and sons

Haiku for the generations

In the sleepless night,
when ev’rything else is still,
haiku write themselves.

He went to the war
at eighteen. Had its effect,
made him who he was.

At Bomber Command
the rear gunner faces death
over and again.

When it was over
he returned, with the burden
of his survival.

For king and country,
or the queen. Doesn’t matter;
it’s about duty.

A draft resister!
The family is disgraced,
for the father, shame.

Not like my father;
but sometimes, in the mirror,
he looks back at me.

My own parenting
would not be like my father’s.
Messed up, anyway.

Grace means accepting
that the one you argue with
might just be correct.


© Ken Rookes 2017

It was ANZAC Day this week and I did some personal reflecting. These haiku are the result. So far.  Make of them what you will.



In 1915 numerous sons
and a few daughters embarked on ships
to participate in a war.
We grew up saluting the flag on Mondays,
and hearing, each April.
the stories of war.
Ours was a young nation, proud, defiant, fearless;
born, we were told, in blood, on the battlefields
and in the trenches of Turkey, Belgium and France.
We heard of courage, larrikin resourcefulness,
and compassion.
These brave soldiers were injured, traumatised and died,
the grand myth attests,
for us, and for our freedom.
We honoured their sacrifice;
remembering, too, those who served in later conflicts.

A century later
the stories become a celebratory avalanche;
while dignitaries and politicians make their preparations
to assemble at Anzac Cove. There they will glory in the moment.
The legendary spirit, however, has become elusive,
betrayed by a nation that has become afraid to love
and by its even more fearful leaders.
Back in this fortunate land, desperate people,
whose only crime was to come seeking refuge,
are, for political convenience,
denied the same freedom so fiercely defended by our forebears.
They are sent off-shore, to be imprisoned behind wire fences
and within an officially sanctioned conspiracy of silence.
For convenience. And for shame.
It is a costly convenience;
in more ways than one.

©Ken Rookes 2015

Anzac Day

On that sacred day
our family would drive
up the Princes Highway
to West Footscray.
Having met George
and his family, we proceeded to the city.
There we farewelled the men
and fiddled with our flags
as we waited on the footpath.
The march began with old soldiers
in proud uniforms riding horses,
and a few driven in cars;
perhaps they’d been wounded.
Among the thousands of men
would be a few groups of women;
nurses, my mother would explain.
We loved the marching bands,
especially the bagpipes,
and the bass drums;
beaters twirling in steady rhythm
to provide a familiar pattern
for once-practised feet.
All the men in the city
seemed to be marching,
as we waited on tired legs
for our mothers to identify
the strange blue banner.
We hoped to glimpse
our silent hero fathers
as the ranks paraded past
in solemn celebration of the lost:
the years,
the comrades,
and the innocence.
© Ken Rookes

Black and White

They would call it an outrageous slander,

but politicians seem to delight

in sending young people off

to fight in foreign lands.

Suitably solemn

when they make their grave announcements,

they are inclined to ignore the desires

of the people they pretend to represent.

The voters, at least for a while,

out of loyalty to ‘our boys,’

(and, these days, our girls),

will place their trust in their leaders

and support their war.

Only after some years have passed,

more troops have died,

and the end seems no closer,

do they become emboldened to ask questions,

and they begin to doubt.

The politicians never do;

and they never admit

that they might have been wrong.

(An impossible thing – it would mean

that all the dying and the maiming

and the mental trauma

had been a waste.)

They must yearn for the days

when the newspaper pictures

were all black and white,

the television screens also;

when declarations of war were made

with black ink on white paper;

and the colour red

was left on the battlefield.

© Ken Rookes 2012

Posted on Anzac Day.