(7 September 1935 - / Maldon / Australia)

THE LAST WAR

There was only one war, and it was finishing
any day soon. Ears keyed to the wireless,
we waited. Then the news: Japan bombed,
gigantic clouds curling, skies burnt scarlet —
total destruction . . .

We've won, we've won, a conga-chant
round the schoolground, beating tins, sticks:
our teacher joining in — flags, jumbled cries —
uncles and cousins coming back. The war over.

Hiroshima, Nagasaki — ghost towns now.
Over two hundred thousand people
ghosts too. We couldn't imagine it.

The bomb entered our conversation,
a stranger who refused to leave.
Only years on did we become aware
of the pit of ash beneath our tongues.

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