The poem "Homecoming" originates from Bruce Dawe. Its journey depicts the aspects of war and its devastations upon human individuals. Using mainly the Vietnam War as a demonstration for its destructions. Within this poem Bruce Dawe dramatizes the homecoming of Australian veterans' bodies from Vietnam. This is clearly an anti-war poem, reproducing the sentiments of those who opposed the time when this war occurred. The poem starts of in what seems to be a monotone.
With many simple verbs such as "picking... bringing... rolling... whining... ." are used to depicts how days after days, it is all the same. The bodies of the soldiers, days after days are all monotonously follow the same routine and being treated in a somewhat a seemingly cold and offhanded way.
These simple words are repetitive; they aim to enhance the effect of imprinting a strong image within the readers' visual imagination of the relentless pace. Forcing the readers into feeling this great injustice for these soldiers who have sacrificed their lives for their country, within the war. Yet their bodies are treated no less than animals, following a strict routine of piling up in trucks, convoys, tagging them, giving them names, and boarding them onto the jets so they can finally return to their beloved home. This is their homecoming. The tone of this particular poem is apparent here. Within the title itself "Homecoming" is irony.
When homecoming is spoken of, an image of happiness, of a safe return of those who have left so long ago, a safe return back to their world, security and comfort. Yet it is subtly ironic in term that these soldiers are no longer alive, their homecoming is one of death and a great sadness for their family members. It should be noted that these soldiers are not referred to by names, by divisions, or even by status within the army. They are just referred to as the "curly-heads, kinky hairs, crew-cuts, balding non-coms", they are referred to by their hairstyle, an insignificant trait that usually would never define a man as a person, yet it is in death that this significant thing becomes a mean to recognize the individuals by that traits.
In this sense, by grouping the individuals by such an insignificant trait, these soldiers have lost their real identities within the war; they now have just become another unison group of bodies. From line 12 to line 18, Bruce Dawe uses the description of the jet's journey, carrying the bodies back to their homes as a way of lamenting on the deaths, the tragedy and the negativity of it all. These are demonstrated especially in strong descriptive words such as "sorrowful fingers", "mangrove-swamps, the desert emptiness... ." and "sterile housing." All devising to reflect on the emptiness, the hollowness and the bitterness of those slay by war and those that are left behind to feel the bitterness and the injustice that the war has brought. The emotions of those that are left behind are emphasized on, in a restrained way as the jets approach the runways and onto the home of these soldiers. Bruce Dawe succeeds in doing so by setting the scene of the dogs raising their muzzles in a mute salute to those coming home.
This is wittingly morbid as it expresses once more the irony that these soldiers are not coming home to a happy parade in their honor and their bravery, but instead only the dogs are out in the street greeting them home. Imagine the impact of what these missing appreciations would have on the family of those that gave up their lives fighting for their country, those that served their country to the fullest term receives nothing in return. With their family members holding "telegrams tremble like leaves from wintering trees", shaken up with grief, anger and pain at their own personal tremendous lost. With so many waves of sadness and bitter emotions intertwine into each other; it's no wonder that "the spider grief swing in his bitter geometry", a metaphor unfolding a web of mixed emotions for the readers to view.
Homecoming in this poem is indeed a bitter event. Especially so, when as the last line says "they " re bringing them home, now, too late, too early." . Too late, since their lives have already been lost. To early for these soldiers, they should never have been coming home this early, when their comrades are still fighting on the battlefields. The words late and early act as a brilliant contrast to each other in term of physical words, but on their deeper meaning is ultimately the same, that these soldiers have died for an injustice cause.