Ribbons of Scarlet
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Cush at my 50th birthday gig

- a golden shovel after 'Scarlet Ribbons', for Cush

At the peal of the bell, they don’t tell you there’s
a field that not everyone comes back from. The survivor’s been
fearing that he’ll never stop hearing the gunfire
even when the bunfight has stopped. And there’s
a sight you don’t come back from. He’s been
seeing his mate in pieces and only the drinking

makes the thinking vision blurred. You’ve heard you
can smell the stench of the rancid trench, you can
hold in your arms the passing of life into cold, you can hear
the tears and the bangs and taste the tangs of the
gunpowder and gas and even if you savour victory
its flavour smacks of death. His voice

won’t sing those songs any more. But on
those war-glory days, we can go back to the
parade grounds of our own, singing along in the chapel
of the Men out on tour, we left fear at the door
and dripped sweat and spilled beer on the floor and
raised voices and hands to the songs of the
battle, the mutiny, the scaffold and the courthouse

What else could we need? Cush and Swill and the
boys, raise a toast, make the noise of rebellion, the posters
of line-ups, put mine up and stand back to say
that hey, we can bellow the truth and have fun. Rejoice.

So the medals hang from ribbons,
the poppy’s petals are scarlet
and the hall’s festooned with ribbons

Remembering, dwelling, carouselling,
rousing calls to fight again, just in
case this war didn’t end war after all, the
main thing is that we won – our boys bled out for a day in the sun

So wave your sanguine ribbons
for those whose blood flowed scarlet
whose tissue hung in ribbons

There’s a gift that some songs give you. And there’s
loss you don’t come back from, But there’s one
thing I come back to: something that he sung for
the bloody truth that war is not glorious for everyone.