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Shelley Hansen - Lady of Lines

Poem of the Month

February 2019

I am delighted to share the news that my three entries were placed in the top 10 in the recent Blackened Billy Award for Written Bush Verse held in conjunction with the annual Tamworth Country Music Festival. This poem was placed third. It is an imagined letter to Henry Lawson, reflecting on the changes in today's world in reference to the poetry he penned.

Dear Henry
© Shelley Hansen 2019

Dear Henry, I’m writing this letter, inviting

your gaze to reach out from the past.

It seems that Australia’s becoming a failure

at building a future to last.

This country was younger when you had the hunger

to find the right words to explain

that as we grew older, we needed to shoulder
hard choices, despite tears and pain.

You wrote of the drover. His days are now over.

He drives semi-trailers instead –

full truckloads of cattle – a road-weary battle

to wake up … or wind up stone dead.

The townships, once thriving, are hardly surviving

since rail routes were taken away.

The sleepers are rotten, the engines forgotten.

The rolling stock rusts in decay.

We talk of pollution without a solution.

The hive beetle’s killing our bees.

Our fruit is imported, our enterprise thwarted,

while oranges rot on the trees.

The farmers have reason to fear the new season

as drought, flood and fire still attack.

Their spirits are broken, poor prices a token

of sell-offs we’ll never get back.

The days that were roaring are now underscoring

a new way of digging for gold.

Some live by this motto – the pokies and lotto –

while kids are left out in the cold.

The cities are places of endless street faces

(you saw it that way from the start).

These days they are walking abstractedly, talking

on mobiles – exposing their heart.

It’s truly appalling that few are recalling

our heritage, sketched by your pen.

In school they’re not teaching your poetry – preaching

instead, things removed from our ken.

For us to be knowing the way we are going

we must understand where we’ve been.

We should be discerning the lessons and learning
to recognise pitfalls we’ve seen.

It's just self-defeating to keep on repeating

the errors of earlier days.

You warned us forthrightly to tread soft, go lightly –

don’t torch hallowed ground to a blaze.

But no one is heeding. The country is bleeding

and blind to its future distress.

Instead they are winging it, pendulum swinging …

Do this! No, do that! More! No, less!

Oh Henry, you’d never believe we were clever

with talented people to spare.

With limited choices, they’re robbed of their voices

and end up forgetting to care.

When night cloaks the mountains and shadows the fountains,

the stars say the answer is near –

until in the morning, the scorching sun’s warning

cries clarion … where to from here?


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