26 APRIL 2003, Page 39

In Town for the March

Today in Castlereagh Street I Felt short of breath, and here is why.

From the direction of the Quay Towards where Mark Foy's used to be, A glass and metal river ran Made in Germany and Japan.

Past the façade of David Jones Men talked on mobile telephones, Making the footpath hideous With what they needed to discuss.

But why so long, and why so loud?

I can recall a bigger crowd In which nobody fought for space Except to call a name. The face To fit it smiled as it went by Among the ranks. Women would cry Who knew that should they call all day One face would never look their way.

All this was sixty years ago, Since when I have grown old and slow, But still I see the marching men.

So many of them still young then, Even the men from the first war Straight as a piece of two-by-four.

Men of the Anzac Day parade, I grew up in the world you made.

To mock it would be my mistake.

I try to love it for your sake.

Through cars and buses, on they come, Their pace set by a spectral drum.

Their regimental banners, thin As watercolours fading in The sun, hint at a panoply Dissolving into history.

As the rearguard outflanks Hyde Park, Wheels right, and melts into the dark, It leaves me, barely fit to stand, Reaching up for my mother's hand.

Clive James