Part 1

I wished I’d had a shotgun as I looked out of me window
To level at the woman and the lad.
They’re strolling up the dirt track of me driveway, jumpin’ Nora,
A Sunday morning. God, it made me mad.

God-botherers, I’m thinking, or tourists who’ve got lost,
But there’s something, dunno what, about that face.
So lowering the imaginary 12-gauge in me mind,
I drop the dusty curtain back in place.

I let them wait a moment while I go to find me teeth.
The two of them are hammering me door.
Well, now they have disturbed me rest time on a Sunday morning,
I might as well find out what it’s all for.

And straight away there’s something in her eyes that makes me feel
I’m dragged back to the past, lifetimes ago.
She says ‘Hi, I’m Daisy’s daughter – and I think you knew me mum,’
And I say ‘Maybe. Tell me, what d’yer think yer know?’

I try to tidy up a bit, find her an empty place to sit,
I chuck some ancient papers on the floor,
Pile days of messed up dinner plates in corners of the room.
‘Well come on in and shut the bloody door’.

‘Nice place’ the woman murmurs as she looks around the room.
She’s being kind, her eyes contain a smile.
I hear me dogs, they’re chained up by the chookyard and the boy
Says ‘I’ll go outside and chat to them a while.’

‘Just don’t making friends with them, they’ll lick you close to death’.
‘No worries,’ says the lad. I see his eyes
Are very like his mother’s and I’m thinking that me day’s
Becoming something I cannot summise.

He yanks the backdoor open and the morning sunshine streams
Into the room to light me fading history,
The odds and ends of souvenirs of times when I was young,
Brown photographs of distant family.

‘What’s happened to yer mother, then?’ I ask. ‘Cancer’, she says.
I feel a tight constriction in me throat.
She’s looking round me walls again, and searching with those eyes
To find, I think, some little thing of note.

I make us cups of tea, and she goes out on the veranda,
Sits on a wooden box to face the sun.
Her eyes the same soft grey-blue as the far-off hazy hills
Beyond the town where my life had begun

And where her’s had almost ended back when she was took away
By welfare folk who thought that they knew best.
She spoke then of the poverty and pain her mum went through.
So hard to hear and harder to digest.

‘So tough back then,’ she’s saying, and I feel that there should be
Some words of understanding I could give.
‘Yeah, I remember that,’ I say, and picture in me mind
The old hut where her family had lived.

No power, no running water in a home of mud and tin,
A few old boards made up the kitchen floor.
Her mum, the kids, in one small room, they managed to get by,
And me wishing I coulda helped some more.

And I recall the husband, always thought he’d strike it rich,
Gone fossicking along the Turon track,
And how the mother struggled on to keep the family fed,
Not knowing when or if he would come back.

‘So tell me, did yer marry? Have you got any kids?’ she asks.
I find that I am telling her about
Me long and lonely life with no family or wife
And bit by bit she starts to draw me out.

After only twenty minutes, she knows more about me life
Than any member of the human race.
‘Bugger me,’ I think, but tell her more – I cannot stop
Being captured by those eyes and freckled face.

I tell of years of digging, and of fossicking for gold,
The heartache and despair brought on by mining,
And working underground in the dark and constant dust
That fills yer lungs to rot away the lining.

The boy appears and with him come old crusty memories,
Returning like bewildered ancient ghosts
Of times when I was fit and young with no thought for the future,
And of those days when I had loved the most.

The woman turns towards me, her eyes locking onto mine,
So haunting in their open honest blue,
And shored-up hard-packed mud-walls of me memory give way
To let the floods of yesteryear stream through.

Me old-man’s eyes are watering, I’m choked up with the past.
I tell ‘em then, ‘It’s time for you to go!’.
‘So, it’s true, yer knew me mother then,’ the woman smiles at me.
Oh, I did, girl, all them wasted years ago.

 

Part 2

Sunday morning waiting for me daughter and her lad to come again.
A year since I first met ‘em, and I’ve seen ‘em once or twice again since then.
Everything is tidy now, I’ve done the washing up and swept the floor,
The kettle’s on the boil, and I’ve just opened wide the busted old front door.

Comfy chairs are ready for ‘em out on the veranda’s sunny side
To look out on the mining town where many of our family worked and died,
In this gold rush relic faced with stares of them who all think that they know.
I’ve tried to make up for me sins but ghosts of this place will not let me go.

Fifty years I’ve lived alone, no day passing when I didn’t wonder
Just what became of Daisy’s girl. Was it my fault they was torn asunder?
While the husband tried his best, good luck in life never was his close friend.
The final break up of that family, too hopeless for it to ever mend.

Now though, there’s a chance for me to do some good in Daisy’s memory.
I haven’t much to give but what I’ve got I’ll share with my new family.
Since that Sunday morning when I saw her eyes life’s changed, and so have I.
A daughter and a grandson – I thought that side of me life had passed me by.

Now too old for cricket or for kicking round a football with the lad,
But maybe there’s some words of wisdom to be passed on from his old grandad,
Tell me daughter all about the woman that I loved back in the day,
How much she missed her girl back when those welfare folk took all her kids away.

Jumpin’ Nora. Here they come, they’re strolling up my driveway like before
But now I don’t reach for that shotgun in me mind to start a mental war.
The dogs are pleased to see ‘em, straining hard to break out from their chains and ties.
And there’s that smile, just like her mum. Gawd, what’s this bloody moisture in me eyes?

 

 

Derek Bland is an Australian bush poet and a visual artist. He recently retired from full-time work as a university lecturer and researcher where he focused on inclusive education and ways in which imagination can engage marginalised people with formal education, which was the theme of his edited book, Imagination for Inclusion: Diverse contexts of Educational Practice (Routledge, 2016). He also writes and self-publishes stories and poems for children. He lives with his wife, Linda, in beautiful Brisbane, Australia, and has children and grandchildren in Australia and North Carolina.


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6 Responses

  1. Tonya Ann McQuade

    And now me eyes are watering as I think about the grandpa and the boy,
    Just picturing his daughter’s sweet approach and, soon, his all-consuming joy!

    Beautiful poems. 🙂

    Reply
  2. Mal Beveridge

    Doc. I’m feeling marginilsed! You didn’t show for old blokes coffee! Lol. Well done Doc.

    Reply
  3. David Watt

    Derek, it is heartening to be reminded that there are still a few other Aussies with a love of narrative verse. Your employment of colloquial language reminds me of CJ Dennis, particularly the concluding words: ‘Gawd, what’s this bloody moisture in me eyes?’

    Reply
    • Derek/Doc Bland

      Thanks, David – but I just had to use the words of the bloke at the centre of this piece in much the same way as he described the event to me some years ago. He was a big-hearted hill-billy of a man, a regular old-time Aussie, now sadly missed. Doc/Derek

      Reply

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