The Babies of Walloon Award – Open Age Bush Poetry
by Ellis Campbell
Tonight the curlews crying mingles west wind's soulful sighing,
among the oaks along the winding creek.
The distant cattle's lowing and the sluggish water flowing,
attuned with voices bushland creatures speak.
For they mourn the one who's disappeared of late.
The foxes nightly prowling start the farm dogs dismal howling,
resounding through the hills to mountain's height.
From lucerne flats down under, come the horses' hooves like thunder
that echoes through the silence of the night.
But they miss the one who met them at the gate.
A distant steam train's whistle, as a haunting night's epistle,
enriches silence like a whispered prayer.
The flitting night owl's whirring through the rustled breezes stirring
comes faintly on the drift of evening air –
more apparent as the day time's sounds abate.
When springtime's waving wattle specks the bush with tawny mottle –
and currawongs are whistling their tune –
I'll linger still – beseeching – as the cockatoos fly screeching
and croaking frogs adorn the dark lagoon.
There's so many things I'll still associate.
Where guileful wild stock cluster, every autumn cattle muster
and wallaroos go bounding past the spring –
through timber wildly racing, after scrubbers interlacing,
I'll miss you, Dusty, riding on the wing –
worthy stockman always there to pull his weight.
Your stockwhip fiercely wielding – indestructible, unyielding –
I thought you'd ride forever by my side.
Your mighty roan horse stumbled in a wombat hole and tumbled
down hill-side's steep incline – and there you died.
I was horrified to view this stroke of fate.
I was riding Black Maria, on the ridge a little higher –
by chance I saw you take that fatal fall.
I saw where you were sprawling – right beneath the big horse falling –
and I didn't give you any chance at all.
No man could stand that writhing form of weight.
For forty years together, through the bluebell, fern and heather –
we mustered stock from every stony ridge.
I'll miss you, Dusty Warner, when we ride to Clarkson's Corner
and camp beside the creek at Swanson's Bridge.
Never will it be the same again, old mate.
I have sat alone for hours, by that mound of withered flowers,
and thought about those years we freely spent.
Immune – we thought – to danger – there's nothing could be stranger
than consequences of this sad event.
Should I give the game away, ere it's too late?