The Shepherd

By Terence Dingwall. Doonside, NSW

My flock bleats gently in the night, my village steeped in slothful slumber.

The stars above gleam faint and bright, do I hear the far off peal of thunder?

I hope this means a chance of rain, as I hear distant whip-like cracks.

Does the dry earth split and cry again? Voices are raised. A night attack.

ANZACs on our coast at dawn! Flash and thunder of the gun is heard.

The morning grey of mist is torn. Let fly the flock, drive off the herd!

Why come they here with gun in hand? Brothers, sisters spread the word

These men wish to take our land. What do they hope to find out here?

Its rough rock, scrub and sand. Pine trees green amid the grass all sere.

“You’re drafted, take this rifle, run!” My heart beats, my mouth is dry

Dust smothering in the rising sun, contemplating doubt I coastwards fly.

If I must fight, then fight I must, for you must be driven out by blood

We will both sprinkle in the dust. Who will be the swimmer in the flood?

Who will remain in years to come, returning hence to this lonely place

To play the bugles mournful tone, while listening to a prayer of grace.

I see them now — a fleet of dark hulled boats, floating in a sea of splashes,

Hurrying figures leap like goats, dodging amidst the bangs and flashes.

I, who last night herded sheep, in a nightmare handing out the slaughter

To fellow herders of the fleece, hurrying landwards through the water.

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