Homecoming

Homecoming

All day, day after day, they’re bringing them home,

they’re picking them up, those they can find, and bringing them home,

they’re bringing them in, piled on the hulls of Grants, in trucks, in convoys,

they’re zipping them up in green plastic bags,

they’re tagging them now in Saigon, in the mortuary coolness

they’re giving them names, they’re rolling them out of

the deep-freeze lockers – on the tarmac at Tan Son Nhut

the noble jets are whining like hounds,

they are bringing them home

– curly- heads, kinky hairs, crew-cuts, balding non-coms

– they’re high, now high and higher, over the land, the steaming chow mein,

their shadows are tracing the blue curve of the Pacific

with sorrowful quick fingers, heading south, heading east,

home, home, home – and the coasts swing upward, the old ridiculous curvatures

of earth, the knuckled hill, the mangrove-swamps, the desert emptiness…

in their sterile housing they tilt towards these like skiers

– taxiing in, on the long runways, the howl of their homecoming rises

surrounding them like their last moments (the mash, the splendour)

then fading at length as they move

on to small towns where dogs in the frozen sunset

raise muzzles in mute salute,

and on to cities in whose wide web of suburbs

telegrams tremble like leaves from a wintering tree

and the spider grief swings in his bitter geometry

– they’re bring them home, now, too late, too early.

Bruce Dawe

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