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Kokoda – The Day After

October 20, 2010

bomona290.jpgSitting around the pool the day after walking/flying out of Kokoda was a surreal and dislocative experience. Fraudulent even. Here we were sitting in comparative luxury, able to flop into a tepid pool if we felt too sticky. And yet we had some claim, we felt, to some ownership of the Track. After all we had worked very hard to cross it. Yesterday we felt a modicum of affinity to the soldiers of 1942. Today I felt that affinity dishonest. I wondered what a soldier of 1942 would really think of us. Cec Driscoll a veteran of the campaign who we met at Kokoda, expressed delight at the Australian youth walking the track. But what would the 1942 Cec Driscoll have thought? I picked up my pen and scribbled this first line, and then the second, seeking the voice of that 1942 Digger. Then the rest just happened. We all “own” the Track. So I called it “Our Kokoda”.

Our Kokoda

Who are you that disturbs this track?
Who plods, head down
Under weight of pack?
Who disturbs my rest, my sleep?


Who walks my highway of dreams?
Who are you who claims to know
Villages and hills you can’t pronounce,
And sleeps on graves unknown, unnamed?

You tell them you come to test your legs.
You whisper you come to test your heart.
Yet you stagger, with no breakfast
And stop before the sun goes down.

Who are you who begrudges the rain
And moans when fancy boots get wet?
Who are you under Gortex dome,
Armed with antibiotics in your pack?

Who is the God you walk with?
Carve his name on your heart, least
It is shot through without warning
By copper jacketed metal, Nippon cast.

Who are you who pretends to know this jungle scar?
Your knees complain and shoulders ache
And you take homeĀ  a certificate
That says “Conquered”.

I hear your clumping boots and scuffing step
And I thank the Lord for your sake I am not a Jap.
I hear you mangle place names, and your cry
“My kingdom for water, just a sip”.

I roll over at your moaning – a blister
I hate the sound of your complaint.
I see you walk without seeing
And wonder at your heart.

I follow you into Kokoda.
I see you slip your pack.
My own with ammo and mortar still binds me,
But now I glimpse your heart.

You are a Joe like me, both from uncaste loins.
Both called from ordinary places.
Only I do things that become ordinary,
To kill, no less and be killed – again and again.

You are a walker like me. None of us are
Born to kill. We are both walkers on a mission.
You are a walker, still living
Not lost ‘neath this leaf and fungus.

Keep walking you disturber of my sleep
Keep your head down if you must, but think.
Close you eyes if you have to, and do not look
Least my blood and my enemy offend.

For today you can walk with your Gortex
And pills and hot food and sat phones and
Emergency airlift because I carved this track
Beneath you with my heart.

Just don’t forget me under this forest
And peat. My helmet is gone,
Rusted away, but my blood is the mud
Clinging to your boots.

Disturb my sleep my brother
Walk where I walked and talk to God.
Walk where I walked and weep in your heart
For the dead here for you, ‘neath this sod.

Copyright 2010

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