Thursday, 27 November 2014


Maureen Clifford © The Scribbly Bark Poet

An old shearing shed built from mismatched grey iron,
corrugations now reddened with rust,
its race made from flitches and Cobb and Co. twitches,
 yellowed grass well coated with dust.
A snake lurks beneath the shed, red belly, sleeping
  coiled  up on a bearer well worn.
All’s quiet inside, no Sunbeams, no shearers.
 The two thousand head have been shorn.
But hang about, inside some people are gathering,
 the reason will soon become clear,
this shed’s got the best floor for dancing which is
 why folks travel miles to dance here.
A slab of red ironbark  - rough sawn is the bar,
 which they’ve set up out-back near the race.
  Alongside the wool press the string band holds sway
 with the fiddler setting the pace.

Matilda, come let me waltz you round the floor.
Dance with me Matilda.
Dance with me.

You just look so cute in your pink pinafore.
Sweet Matilda... come waltzing with me.

The bloke on the fiddle plays with heart and soul;
 he is cheeky and raunchy and bold.
The Ladies are glowing; the breezes are warm,
 the beer though is icy and cold.
Two young blades play banjo and both strum along
and they match the fiddler note for note
the bloke on the lagerphone calls out the steps
 and it seems he has learnt them by rote.
“Come on boys and girls take your partner’s hands
 and let us see those ladies swing.
Now step to the middle, and boys bow, girls’ curtsy,
 then promenade round in a ring.
Now twirl your girl, twirl your girl, twirl her again
then waltz her quickly round the floor.
Then gentlemen, bow, pass your lady along
 and all promenade around once more.”

Matilda, come let me waltz you round once more.
Dance with me Matilda.
Dance with me.

For you know you’re the only girl I adore
Sweet Matilda… come waltzing with me.

Those folks who are too old to dance sit and watch,
 tapping feet, clapping hands, calling ‘More!’
The young folks and others all join in the dance
there is scarcely room left on the floor.
Some young blokes are gathered shyly at the bar,
 each one of them scrubbed up and neat,
all watching as young Jack twirls  Matty around,
 spinning her, swinging her off her feet.
The loud noise and laughter echoes round the shed,
escaping from under the roof.
Five long trestles tables groan with the home cooking
 awaiting those good on the tooth.
The local ladies all came bearing a plate –
submitting their cuisine to share.
Delicious, fresh, nutritious homemade and grown
local produce.  The best country fare.

Matilda, lets dance here closer to the door.
Dance with me Matilda.
Dance with me.

I might steal a kiss and hope you ask for more.
Sweet Matilda… come waltzing with me.

All soft drinks lay nestled in ice laden tubs
and big eskies dispense golden ale.
Young babies lay cradled in fine micron nests
 of wool that has not yet been baled.
The young children race around noisy and loud
 with their frantic feet kicking up dust,
As ewes, just off shears,  from dry paddocks look on –
 gentle white faces full of distrust.
The band has played ‘Nellie Gray’, ‘Duelling Banjos’
and the favourite - 'Click go the Shears'
still coming in fast are many requests –
 ‘Danny Boy’ is music to their ears.
Around the clock face metal hands progress slowly,
  the last tune one all loved to hear,
traditionally the last song of the night.
  The young bloke whispers soft in her ear.

Matilda, Matilda let’s waltz round once more.
Dance with me Matilda.
Dance with me.

For you know you’re my love, you’re the girl I adore
So Matilda... won't you come waltzing?

Do you know Matilda we’ll marry one day?
And then all night long in my arms you will stay.
So come with me now girl, dance the night away.

Come Waltzing Matilda.
Waltz with me.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014


BIMBLEBOX reserve is under threat from Clive Palmer in his search for coal.  This reserve was land donated for a wildlife refuge and is home to many rare and endangered species of bird ... writers and poets are being asked to get on board to help the cause and raise public awareness ....

I chose to write about the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Acanthagenys rufogularis.  Their call is described as : Liquid gurgling notes. ‘Give-the-boy-a-go’ repeated ending in a single abrupt note.  

 Maureen Clifford ©  The Scribbly Bark Poet

A pink blush stained the maiden’s cheeks, she turned her head away
a little pirouette she gave beneath the blossoms gay,
the male was a good looking bloke -  vociferous and loud
and she could hear him calling out even when in a crowd.

Give the boy a go just give the boy a go
I’ll build a love nest for you if you give the boy a go.
I’ll line it with the softest wool and build it there below
together we’ll raise little chicks -  just give the boy a  go.

They foraged through the shrubs and trees and foraged on the ground
sharing the little delicacies between them that they found
Both feasted on the quandong and the juicy mistletoe
and he would serenade her – calling – give the boy a go.
These little birds had no idea their home was under siege
they spent each day contented  ‘neath Bimblebox forest leaves
Coal was not on their diet and this pair had not a clue
all could be lost if mans greed was allowed to follow through.

Their lovely desert upland with its rich diversity
of flora and animal species headed for catastrophe
by a mining group who only saw the wealth that lay beneath
and to reach the coal they would destroy the precious woodland heath.

A nature refuge under siege would well describe their home
a sanctuary for many years – donated land and loam
Red tailed black cockatoo lived there and Yellow Thornbill too
our Spiny-cheeked honeyeaters part of a motley crew.
Were they aware of what they’d lose a protest would be raised
by all the birds whose home was there and leading the parade
would be a honeyeater with a spiny cheek aglow
and you would hear him calling out – give the birds a go.

Give the birds a go Clive – give the birds a go
we’re part of the ecology, don’t say you didn’t know.
Destroy our homes and we are gone – it’s pretty hard you know
to find a safe green habitat – Give the birds a go.

But animals don’t have a voice – they must rely on us
to stop the carnage and the rape because it is unjust.
This land was once donated as a habitat for all
and nowhere was it mentioned then it would be dug for coal.

Thursday, 20 November 2014


Drying Stockmen
Maureen Clifford © The Scribbly Bark Poet

Have we strung them on the fences all along the northern track
where the hot sun desiccates them and slow turns their skin to black?
Should we package and then stack them, load them in the four by four?
To rejuvenate just add beer – and they’ll last for evermore.

Do we send them to the cities, turn them loose on crowded streets
where they linger on park benches and in bars?  They meet and greet
new arrivals with a handshake and a gruff macho display
of resettling their Akubras, hitching jeans, saying G’day.

They are like fish out of water these dried desiccated men.
In the city they all flounder and the cities don’t get them.
They need distant horizons for their gaze to rest upon.
City skylines are tall towers and they quite lose their aplomb.

You can take men from the country, but it’s always in their hearts,
they ain’t easy in the city  merely pushing shopping carts,
they rest easy in the saddle with some kelpies at their feet
pushing stock ‘cross country paddocks in the blazing Aussie heat.

Here the country corrugations criss- cross round a million eyes.
The time honoured Aussie salute still dispels a million flies.
These men hang out in the outback and drive red dirt country roads
and we’d best enjoy them whilst we can before the lot implodes.

They’re our sun bronzed Aussie farmers; they’re widespread across our land
growing food to grace our table and right now some need a hand.
They’ve been ravaged by the fires, flood and drought – enough’s enough
but they haven’t given up yet ‘cause they’re built of sterner stuff.

But there’s some with health now failing and there’s some just getting old
and there’s some who are in deep despair beneath the bankers hold.
Should we turn our backs upon them?  Should we comment - ‘Well life’s tough
and if those blokes cannot hack it -  it’s no good cutting up rough.’

Should we just turn a cold shoulder?  Or will we give them a hand
up to help them do what they do best ? Help keep them on the land.
Or string them on the fences and leave them out there to dry?
Lose our farmers, lose our country, close the door and wave goodbye.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


Maureen Clifford ©  The Scribbly Bark Poet

A darkened fading photograph hung on his granny’s wall
full of a dozen people that he didn’t know at all.
Taken somewhere in Queensland where the flies and midday heat
made the clothes they wore still more bizarre as they stood on the street
in the noonday sun outside the pub – one sensed their expectation
as they waited for the billy goats to run – to stipulation.

The route was fairly simple, round the pub and up Hay Street;
sharp right, then right again on Bell and back to ‘Diggers Meet’
The first child who could make it back would win a silver cup
plus a penn’orth of boiled lollies .  Thing was goats could all act up
and head to points south, east and west without much hesitation,
but this was a just a billy goat race – it wouldn’t stop the nation.

A picture stood beside her bed – a child with smiling face
held cradled in its mother’s arms beside the old sheep race.
Above, a pepperina tree spread cooling dappled shade
and sheep dotted the hillside -  in the distance small lambs played.
The child wore just a singlet and a nappy in the heat
but he didn’t look much different to the kids on that old street.

Look close and you would note the resemblance around the eyes
with the boy standing beside his goat  and one just might surmise
they were related. Indeed they were, the young boy with the goat
was the babe in arms Great Grandfather.  A country bloke of note,
who had gone to war to fight for king and country in his time
believing it was worthwhile.  Wanting freedom not a crime.

The babe cradled in mother’s arms had freedom sure enough.
Freedom to do whatever and he chose to do bad stuff.
He had no time for country life ‘twas city lights he craved
he ran away from Mothers arm and chose a life depraved.
He lived in squats, he drank and smoked and never had a job
and sold himself on Sydney streets – for drugs he’d even rob.

He turned his back on family and turned his back on home
and broke his Mothers heart – he was invisible – alone,
although known to the boys in blue, a ‘rent boy’ was his tag.
a prostitute, drug user, dealer, trouble maker, fag.
And one day in an alley on a mattress stained and torn
they found him – dead and overdosed – with needles still adorned.

They held a service in the town, the townsfolk came to pray
for the young, red haired ranga they recalled from yesterday.
The kid who everyone had liked, with a good family gene,
who played footy on Sundays and was in the cricket team.
Hard to believe he’d ended thus.  They shook their heads in sorrow
and rallied round the family – better days come tomorrow.

The cortege left – went up Hay Street then circled back to Bell
to drive past all the mourners gathered to wish him farewell.
Then slow and stately carried on to the town cemetery
for a graveside interment ‘neath a pepperina tree,
beside his Gran and Great Grandpa – in the old family plot.
The feral goats grazed close nearby and God the day was hot.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014


A few years ago the FNQ town of Rockhampton was inundated by flood - a fairly regular thing up there and something that the locals take in their stride and are quite blase about - then my own town was inundated with floods in 2011 and again in 2013 so water was very much on my mind when I wrote this.


Maureen Clifford © The Scribbly Bark Poet

G’day Mum,

New Years Eve came and went, taking hopes and dreams with it but without the usual celebrations of night fire, fireworks and sparklers. Everything is too bloody wet up here at the moment. Sydney put on a good show though – saw that on the telly before the power went off. We’ll be right, the generator is keeping the fridges going and we’re not out of beer – yet.

rain dampens spirits
firework display fizzles out –
but there’s always beer

The corner shop has run out of almost everything now and the water is up over the counter and cash register now anyway. We tie the tinny up to the verandah post and then wade inside to salvage what little is left. The owner is a good bloke – he put a sign on the door saying ‘take what you need – slightly water damaged stock’. The man’s a comedian, but the water came up so quick he couldn’t get it out so he moved it to the top shelves to try and save what might be useful. Most folks will settle up with him when the waters go down. The river hasn’t peaked yet, she is still rising and they expect her to go over the 9.4 metre mark.

shore to door service
the joys of waterfront living -
boat vendors

Everything now is starting to stink – the sewage plant has been inundated. Maybe they could get the air force to drop a few of those new dri wave baby nappies upstream from the town or some of those ‘Depend’ undergarments, although I don’t suppose even they can handle a leak this big.

caught short by nature
saturation point exceeded -
reached and breached

The mossies are out for blood, and here we are wading in waters where no doubt crocs are on the move. They could pop up anywhere now, no longer restricted to the river and river banks – their playground has expanded by thousands of miles; and the snakes – you see them swimming through the muddy waters, clinging to fence posts, and no doubt when able getting into houses, onto veranda’s. Survival of the fittest here Mate. (Have to make a mental note – don’t go out on the verandah to check flood levels without first making sure first that crocs and snakes aren’t there.) There are just so many extra perils to think of at the moment. They are not the type of croc’s one wants on the front verandah.

garden ornaments
take on a new perspective –
they’ve gone live

But spirits are still high. Bowed but not beaten. Everyone is pitching in and doing what they can. Good intentions all round. Lots of new friendships are now being forged through adversity. The ANZAC spirit seems to be coming out. Mind you there are always the low lives. We have got looters – can you imagine? Not to mention the bloody tourists roaring through in their tinnies - rubbernecking. They are going so fast that they are pushing up a bow wave that surges and slaps the water into the houses – as if we haven’t got enough problems. Police are putting a stop to that though. God those blokes and girls have been wonderful – real morale boosters they are and the SES brigade, and the Salvo’s all trying to do something to help, and they are just as wet as the rest of us.

riding the waves
generated by idiots -
street surfing

The local showground looks like Noahs Ark. It is full of horses and cattle and goats and dogs – those that could be saved, and heaps of chooks and ducks in makeshift enclosures. They put them on the racecourse at first but then it went under, so now the showground is packed – but they are desperate now for stock feed. It will have to be trucked in from interstate and then airdropped. The amazing thing is that all of these animals seem to be getting on so well together. No doubt they realize the gravity of the situation they are in and everyone seems to be on their best behaviour.

local showground
Noah’s Ark re-enactment –
room at the inn

Stock losses on properties though will be huge, farmers were cutting fences and opening gates to give their stock the best chance of survival but doubt many would have made it. With no high ground even the strongest of horses and cattle can’t swim indefinitely, and standing neck high in water for days on end with no tucker isn’t the greatest deal either. The little calves and foals would stand no chance. 

from waters birthed
now washed away in death -
a watery demise

It seems silly with so much water around us but the first thing I am going to do when this starts to ease is have a shower in clean water. The newest fashion shade up here at the moment is ‘River Brown’ – described as a sepia shade reminiscent of soft sludge silt – I think the whole countryside around here has gone for it in a big way. Even the residents seem to have embraced it wholeheartedly. I wonder if those city slickers will latch onto it – it would make a nice change from the latte shades that have been popular for so long. Although come to think of it, it isn’t that different – kind of a strong cappuccino colour.

masquerading as 
the brew that fortifies - 
flood waters seep and rise

One thing about it is that it is a great leveller – Joe Blo’s lawn now looks equally as good as Miss Hoity Toity’s lawn – they both bask resplendent in the Queensland sunshine with tastefully arranged artefacts such as rubber thongs, kiddies wading pools and the occasional blue or red esky reposing amongst the shrubbery. Front fences and hedges are decorated with fringes of tattered shrubbery and long grasses and there are tantalizing glimpses of white and pale blue plastic bags artfully woven through the River Brown layers.

shabby chic
seen everywhere in town –
exterior decorating

Oh and by the way Mum, Jimmy says thank you for the great Christmas present you sent him. He wanted to know how you could possibly have known that flippers and goggles were just what he was going to need. We just told him you were psychic and had the gift of second sight so he said ‘Good oh – she’ll know what to get for my Birthday then.’ But just in case you don’t he’s hoping you’ll take him to Sea World when he gets down to Brisbane. You’d have thought he’d be over the water thing after going through this.

fills children with excitement –
wet and wild water park 

Anyway Mum – gotta go – they are filling sandbags at the showground so we are going to give a hand there. Don’t worry we’ll be right. When we are alone I will show you the piccys we took. You will be amazed – God knows we are amazed. Never thought I would be able to afford a property with such extensive water views. Do you reckon the value will have increased much?

waters rise - price drops
extensive water views here
don’t equate to cash

Love from your slightly soggy and almost submerged son


Its been a long time between drinks and once again we are struggling with drought across this country.  Rain or lack of it is a constant source of conversation here in Australia - more so in the country than in the city...

Did you get a bit last night?

Maureen Clifford © The Scribbly Bark Poet  11/14

It never stopped, just kept on coming and running and drummin’.  She hated the sound of it on the tin roof.  When it got really heavy it was she imagined like being in a dugout with a machine gun hammering away in your ear.  Nothing soothing at all in the sound.  Bloody rain.

waterlogged trenches
knee deep in mud and gore –
Flanders Fields

  Ten days now and everything was waterlogged.  If a sinkhole opened up beneath her she wouldn’t be at all surprised. And now the problem was the river at the bottom of the street.  It was rising, a lot faster today because they had finally decided to let some water out of the dam that was now overfull.  After the major floods the city and towns had already experienced over the previous two years, everyone was nervous.

storm surge aftermath
fast flowing rapid water -
rising damp

 She was keeping a wary eye out for snakes.  They were on the move, being forced by floodwaters from their riverbank nooks and crannies.  The sneaky little bastards would be in your house before you knew it, hiding under furniture, lurking in cupboards – one had to be extra vigilant.  One bite from these slithery serpents and it was all over red rover.  They were venomous, they were cranky and they were there.

slithering serpents
sinuously swimming -
seeking respite

It was always a worry.  With two dogs constantly looking for adventure and the little terrier doing what little terriers do – hunt, anything that ventured into the yard was fair game.  They were good dogs and pretty obedient but couldn’t be watched 24/7.  She swore to God they even heard two ants crossing the road, as from a deep sleep suddenly two sets of ears pricked and then hell for leather they both charged down the stairs, nearly ripping the door off its hinges as they burst through the doggie door.  This accompanied by frenzied barking and growling and usually when she went to investigate the cause of the commotion there was nothing there that she could see.

excellent hearing
plus extrasensory perception –
equals high alert

But snakes were quick, lightening quick and one of her dogs was older and slower now and the other one was far too cocky for her own good, a Jack Russell who thought she was six foot high and bulletproof.  A fierce defender of her family and her territory.  A ballsy little bitch that would take on anything and in the frenzy of the hunt completely ignore any directions that were given to her.  That was the worry.   When a dog is hell bent on killing a snake you don’t want to draw their attention away from their attack for a second, for that second might just be when the snake drives home an advantage, but you don’t want the dog attacking the snake in the first place and you sure as hell don’t want to get bitten yourself.  God she hated snakes.  Problem was if one dog was going in for the kill the other one would be there as back up, the whole bloody scene reeked of a disaster waiting for a place to happen.

in like Flynn
all for one and one for all -
united we stand

She often wondered whether an electric fence would keep snakes out.  Of course people laughed and looked at her like she was a slice short of a sandwich, but in reality could it not work?  Her brother told her that once the grass grew a bit it would short out the  hot wire, which to keep a snake out would have to be almost on the ground.  Well she still thought it might work, but men knew best about these things.  Didn’t they?  Then again,  had a bloke even thought of that idea?

never say never
thinking outside the square –
womens intuition

Whilst pondering this she thought she would give her city girl friend Sue a ring and have a chat.  It had been a while since they had spoken and now she was retired she never ventured into the city.  Didn’t have any need to these days, and she hated it anyway.  Too much rush and noise and traffic for her tastes.  Mind you snakes weren’t thick on the ground there.

concrete jungle
dry urban ecology -
black bitumen snakes

The phone rang, and rang and she was about to hang up when it was picked up and her girlfriends voice, a little breathless answered.  They chatted for a while about this and that, family, friends, movies, nothing too earth shattering more about touching base than changing the world.

mindless chatter- repartee
explored and noted

Suddenly there was silence on the other end of the phone, she could feel the tension coming down the line and then in a voice dripping with icicles it was so cold Sue tersely replied “ I fail to see why that is any of your business.”

....Well she was a bit taken aback by that response I have to tell you because all she had asked Sue was ‘Did you get a bit last night?  I had just over two inches”

plus prudish perceptions
equates to cold shoulder

I mean to say that’s a fairly normal question to ask about the weather isn’t it?  The main topic of conversation in the country is how many inches are in the rain gauge.