Shelley Hansen - Lady of Lines

Poem of the Month

October 2018

This poem was highly commended in the Boyup Brook Bush Poetry Competition in early 2018. Inspired by Banjo Paterson, it imagines what sort of reply Clancy of the Overflow might have penned to the letter written by his city-dwelling friend.

A Message from Clancy
© Shelley Hansen 2018
(with due deference to Banjo Paterson)

So you think you'd like to swap me, reckon city life would stop me
in my tracks if I took on an office job of sorts in town?
Well, I'll say this Banjo – cobber, I'd be nothing but a robber!
If you think I'd take away your precious ledgers – you're a clown!

For my life's been in the saddle with an office space to straddle
from the Cooper to the Coorong where no door requires a lock.
There is no assisted lighting, and no sounds of children fighting –
for the station kids are far too busy mustering the stock!

As you've added and subtracted, and with great precision factored
your percentages, while seconds ticked by slowly on the wall,
my routine holds rhyme and reason as the earth moves through each season
and my days are measured simply by the hot sun's rise and fall.

And my nostrils catch the flavour of the eucalypt, to savour
heady perfume through the cooling air that ushers in the Spring,
while your breath becomes a splutter with the odours from the gutter
rising pungently through windows where no kookaburras sing.

As my quart pot sounds its rattle, I ride on and guide the cattle
past the creekbeds, dry and dusty in the years we had no rain.
Then the wet brings lifeblood flowing from the Gulf, with rivers growing
till they burst across the overflow that inundates the plain.

And I find it quite diverting when I hear some blokes asserting
that there's nothing in the Outback to enliven or impress.
There's not much that's green and tender in this wild and rugged splendour
but it casts a magic spell that traps the heartstrings, nonetheless.

I have sometimes heard the story that the greedy quest for glory
causes friendships to be broken as the city bullies thrive;
but out here there's no divisions as we dine on shared provisions
round a campfire, where our mateship keeps us happy – and alive.

As you walk, the crowds are thronging – eyes cast downward – while you're longing
for the day of your retirement (and you wish it could be soon);
while to me it seems astounding that each night with stars abounding
I could climb a silver staircase that would dance me to the moon!

When I find I can no longer match the energy of stronger
men, I'll come and look you up – so we can say that we've conferred.
But you'll only have my pity, for I know that in the city
all my memories of droving won't be shaken – merely stirred!

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