Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition

by Rozanna Lilley

With linked arms couples
circumnavigate the stage
the women gauntlet gloved and belted
their pearl strings swaying 
to the big band rhythm
While newly borrowed soldiers 
wax trembling pencil moustaches
coax neckties into military knots
the sprung floor swelling beneath 

A patriotic pistol clap sets
hallelujah hands waving
as spectral bullets feed phantom guns –
the choreographed propaganda
so much hot damn fun!

Tivoli girls rummaging 
costume trunks for quick changes
their ribboned pumps 
crowding beds in makeshift wards

Surly sisters transformed 
into wisecracking dames
and frightened boys rehearsing 
each new step just in case 
they never make it home again

Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition was promoted in Australia in 1943 as a ‘new war dance’. An American patriotic song by Frank Loesser, it was composed as a response to the attack on Pearl Harbour. The 1943 version by Kay Kyser and His Orchestra reached number 1 on the U.S. Billboard chart. You can listen to it here: The image is from the popular tabloid Pix Magazine 10 April 1943: The dance is an example of wartime propaganda and the influence of American popular culture in Australia. It was hoped that this kind of entertainment would provide a safety valve for the emotions of young people caught up in the fear of war. The image is out of copyright and can be freely used. 

Rozanna has published creative non-fiction and poetry in national newspapers, literary journals and edited collections. Her hybrid memoir ‘Do Oysters Get Bored? A Curious Life’ (UWA Publishing, 2018) was shortlisted for the National Biography Award in 2019. A new collection of her poems titled ‘The Lady in the Bottle’, based on the 1960s TV series ‘I Dream of Jeannie’, is scheduled for publication by Eyewear in the UK later in 2021.

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