Most of us have come here from somewhere else, fleeing war, or just looking for a better life. But now we watch women and children, in search of the same landfall, drown within our reach. Like the Anzacs, our gods, they are war-addled and adrift, far from home. Unlike the Anzacs, they come in peace, for peace. But we don't know or own them, and so they perish. We pull their bodies from the water, and sail home.
This is “Beach Burial,” by Kenneth Slessor.
Softly and humbly to the Gulf of ArabsThe convoys of dead sailors come;At night they sway and wander in the waters far under,But morning rolls them in the foam.Between the sob and clubbing of gunfireSomeone, it seems, has time for this,To pluck them from the shallows and bury them in burrowsAnd tread the sand upon their nakedness;
And each cross, the driven stake of tidewood,Bears the last signature of men,Written with such perplexity, with such bewildered pity,The words choke as they begin -'Unknown seaman' - the ghostly pencilWavers and fades, the purple drips,The breath of wet season has washed their inscriptionsAs blue as drowned men's lips,
Dead seamen, gone in search of the same landfall,Whether as enemies they fought,Or fought with us, or neither; the sand joins them together,Enlisted on the other front.