On my way to work seated,
not crammed, the tram climbs Bourke Street
It jars and jostles and jerks fleets
of crisp suits and crisper skirts, neatly
burrowing through the work week
to earn meat and burn heat
and we're alone and introverted
on our phones, all eyes averted
there's an old man on the tram
instead of a smartphone, he holds a newspaper
and as the cart groans past skyscrapers
everything seems normal
I notice that his hand is shaking
enough to hear the pages fluttering
but this sound isn't ground breaking
since the tram is already shuddering
and it is very cold
and he is about a hundred years old
and apart from the slight hand shying
he seems fine -
still legs, straight spine -
so, untroubled, I go back to the prozac
fun bubble that is my phone.
"Have you seen this?"
the old man speaks, breaking the silence,
not that there is no sound -
the carriage creaks, brakes squeal at sirens
as the city swirls round
tram bells ding to blare a warning
or share a good morning
our phones ding, rewarding us
so they can keep recording us -
everything is fuming noise
except the human voice.
But on our tram that human silence is broken,
and every eye meets his,
for the old man has spoken
and now he repeats his question.
"Have you seen this?"
He holds up the newspaper
to his opposite neighbour
and whispers "nazis"
he asks us, no one and everyone,
"how are they back again?"
and it's like he's back again
his whole body clenches
as he tells us of trenches
how he saw so many men die
felt so many friends die
how every day since 1944,
he has missed his best friend Peter
who gave his life in the war.
Yet through seventy years of grief
he's been consoled by the belief
that Peter's death was worthwhile
if his last breath occurred while
they stopped the Nazis from wiping out Jews
and destroying everything good and true
and today this old man reads the news
sees the mobs with swastika tattoos
and asks us:
"Did my friend die for nothing?"
And now, when I read the news
of Nazis growing in European parliament seats
and the Australian senate
and American streets
when Nazis online feel stung by our tweets
and send death threats to get our words to retreat
I will not be defeated
because somewhere inside
I'm still meeting the old man's eyes
when he misses his friend Peter
and asks us why
why there are still nazis
did his friend die for nothing?