Saturday, 13 December 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 and 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.