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Shelley Hansen - Lady of Lines

Poem of the Month

May 2018

This month's poem was recently runner-up in the Oracles of the Bush written poetry competition at Tenterfield, in the themed section "Quiet Achievers". It celebrates the tireless work of volunteers - and a way of life that is changing.

The Jumbuck Drama Club
© Shelley Hansen 2013

I travelled to my childhood home – the town of Jumbuck Creek –
and wandered past the Corner Store once owned by "Jim the Greek".
It's just about the only shop that has an open door –
the rest are boarded up these days – they ply their trade no more.
But then I spotted down the street a sight I thought was grand –
the vast unpainted structure of old Davo's "Second Hand",
where as a kid I poked about in blissful reverie -
exploring all his treasures always fascinated me.

I stuck my head around the door and softly called his name -
he dozed and waited for the customers who never came.
His rheumy eyes were blurry as he blinked against the glare -
"It's you, girl - strike me lucky! Come inside – pull up a chair!"
I wandered first around the shed, just touching little things
as memories came flooding back on swiftly beating wings.
An ancient treadle Singer struck a long-forgotten chord
when Davo said, "Remember? That machine belonged to Maud."

Dear Maud – she was the stalwart of the Jumbuck Drama Club
that flourished in its heyday in the Hall behind the Pub.
She turned out all our costumes with her deft, creative flair
and kept us motivated with her passion and her care.
Undaunted by the challenges, we'd willingly aspire
to stage the plays of Shakespeare – or A Streetcar Named Desire -
and I discovered quickly this was teamwork at its best
as learning lines and painting props put talent to the test.

Our little Hall would fill with those from near and far away
who came to catch some "culcher" (as they called our yearly play),
and when we took our curtain call they whistled as we bowed –
if we were at "Her Majesty's" we couldn't be more proud!
Young Joe the plumber's son became Young Romeo on set,
while Mary from the Bakery was sweet as Juliet.
But I lost touch with both of them somewhere along the track –
then Joe was sent to Vietnam - and never did come back.

I spent an hour with Davo and two cups of Billy Tea -
just chatting and remembering the way things used to be.
We talked of :drought and flooding rains:, of friends long dead and gone,
and how the town of Jumbuck Creek had died as folk moved on.
The Bakery was first to go – they couldn't make it pay.
The Corner Shop sells bread now – but it isn't fresh each day.
The Hardware and the Draper couldn't match the online stores
who undercut their prices till they had to shut their doors.

The Drama Club had folded up as video took hold,
for no-one came to see the plays of actors who'd grown old.
Then Maud had died one summer at her house up on the hill –
the whirring needle of her Singer finally stood still.
I couldn't bear the thought of it in someone else's hands –
a stranger – never knowing all the things for which it stands –
or sentenced to decay in dust, forgotten and alone
with no one to retell the tales of splendour it has sewn.

And so I bought the Singer, and it's in my sewing room
with pride of place beneath the window – saved from certain doom.
I polish it and oil it, but it rests in peace these days –
a tribute to Maud's legacy of costumes for our plays.
I almost hear it humming with the memory of years,
and as my thoughts trace times gone by, my vision mists with tears
until I hear Maud's merry laugh and give my eyes a rub -
and smile as I think back upon the Jumbuck Drama Club!

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