Old Ruddock’s boy made good, they say, up country
I thought a jaunty walk was best
To take me down the deepened lane.
I turned my lumpen throat and back.
My father watched with straightened mouth.
No talk of pride or shame or pain.
I blinked away the scorching light.
The shadows shattered in the narrow track.
I didn’t have the words to spell
the restless itch
the urgent thirst
for towns and light, the edge, the world,
the something, not hedged in.
I used to take the kids at first.
We made our nest in Rowan Tree
where the cowshed used to be.
Just the promised August week
they swung on gates and ran with sticks.
I smarted at the change of it
and waited for the hush of sleep
to wander out in startling nights
and stride across the deep grooved fields
to thwack again the hoar oak tree.
The proof to me I’d been.
I’d creep about the cleaned up yard,
Flowered up with tubs and neat,
until, with softest soughs,
it came . . . the past . . .
the pull and pump and suckle,
the warm hay-breath of cows,
the pink and velvet nuzzles,
the muddy slap of hooves.
And yes, I’ve got the cars and house,
The long haul holiday.
I’ve even got some Cup match comps –
A good life, as you say.
Through Somerset Fields
Down ancient path sweet scented flora grow,
by gurgling stream whose ripples flow
alongside brambled fields, where cattle low.
And lamb who cranes through gate to show
enquiring face, bleats as wont to follow.
Now shades of evening purple shadows throw
And roosting birds, in final fanfare, crow . . .
Time then to head for home by twilight glow.
Leprosy Window, Culbone Church
A slit in a wall where we stood in line
and one by one took the sacrament
in our enfeebled palms
knowing our state was grievous
and full of sin.
Priest, a shadow with a white hand,
proffers bread and wine on a long spoon.
Inside, a carol, almost in tune,
outside, birds sing; sea sparkles;
trees pierce the sky.
We follow this creed of love and grace
hoping to heal limbs and face
with a sliver melting between lips,
wine a trickle from a reed’s end,
but our curse is ordained.
Our way home to the colony
is marked by pitted drover paths,
scars from charcoal burning,
patches bleached by lime.
A miner’s adit spits poison
over the copper-green glade
where we belong in this place and time.