Stretcher Bearer

I see them still, cursing the generals
who put them in this spot – the incompetent
Generals who sent them to their deaths.
“Over the top” was the cry,
and they went over and were slaughtered.
The Turk was scarcely better off,
but at least he occupied the heights
and looked down on us, while we
looked up, blinded by dust and blood.
The stink of the unburied dead
was always in our nostrils.
We drank that stink, we ate it
with our bully beef, we breathed it.
There was nothing over the top
but death. I lost my best mates
on the cliffs of Gallipoli. They cry out
to me still, but I can no more
help them now than I could then.

from Gallipoli & Other Poems (Wai-te-ata Press, 1999), © Alistair Te Ariki Campbell 1999, used by permission of the author. Recording from the Aotearoa New Zealand Poetry Sound Archive 2004

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