This is another poem that had an immediate impact on me.
I hope you enjoy it too.
The Bush Barman
I saw him through the window, just a shadow on the street;
A haunted look about him, shuffling slowly on his feet.
He came up to the doorway, stopped a while, and peered about,
And watching as he entered, I could tell his luck was out.
His clothes were worn and shabby and his face betrayed his life,
Within its greying stubble plaintive lines marched deep and rife.
His voice was just a whisper as he asked me for a drink,
Then he pulled a bar-stool closer and he squatted on it’s brink.
I asked him how his day was and he answered with a grunt,
His manner uncongenial and his body language blunt.
His fingers trembled slightly as he slowly sipped his beer,
Eyes focused somewhere distant, lost in thoughts of yesteryear.
I studied him in silence while he drank a couple more,
And couldn’t help remarking that we’d often met before.
He said he didn’t think so and appeared about to go,
But I stopped with a gesture, “There’s some things you ought to know”
I sensed his inner turmoil as he struggled to decide,
Then the demon on his shoulder stood reluctantly aside,
He stared at me intently, then he shrugged and said, “Okay”,
So I filled a brace of glasses and directed one his way.
“We left the land where we were born and trusting to our fate,
We went to meet our destiny before it grew to late.
We sensed that youths horizons had forever been outgrown,
And sailed upon the first fleet to explore the great unknown.”
“We went inland with Stuart, and we trekked with Burke & Wills,
We rode with Sturt and Leichhardt, crossing deserts, plains and hills,
We pioneered the outback, fighting sickness, floods and drought,
And never shirked the challenge as we ventured further out”.
“We shore the sheep by thousands, rising each day with the sun,
And vied to hold the title of the shearing shed’s ‘top gun’.
We pushed the cattle overland where none had gone before.
And now the ‘Overlander’ is enshrined in our folklore”.
“We picked the fruit, we cut the cane, we ploughed this arid soil,
Content with any blessings that resulted from our toil.
We took our chances, ran the risks, and never thought to fail,
For life beneath the Southern Cross would not support the frail”.
“We built the cities, formed the roads, and laid the railway tracks,
And when the times were less than kind we watched each others backs.
We raised our voices for a dream, that dream was Federation,
When other voices joined our own – Australia was a nation”.
“When destitution threatened and ensnared us in its fears,
We took Matilda waltzing through the great depression years.
We walked the endless highways and the lonely outback tracks,
With nothing more than fortune and the swags upon our backs”.
“And when our nation called its sons to drive away the foe,
We fought beneath Australia’s flag wherever it would go.
From the killing fields of Europe to Gallipoli’s blood stained sea,
We forged the Anzac spirit that has kept this nation free”.
“We held the reins for Cobb & Co, and rode with Kelly’s gang,
We applauded from the front row when Dame Nellie Melba sang.
We drove the herds for Kidman, rode with Clancy in his prime,
And recited , with a passion, all of Henry Lawson’s rhyme”.
“We made a ton with Bradman, swam with Fraser in the pool,
When Laver won the championship we both felt ten feet tall.
We took a mark with Farmer, and watched Phar Lap hit his straps,
For no-one likes to have a go more than we ‘Aussie’ chaps”.
“We were settlers searching for a dream, convicts bound in chains,
We were children of the ‘Dreamtime’ from the deserts and the plains.
We came from countries scattered wide, from far of destinations,
From walks of life that represented all denominations”.
“So friend, it’s quite a story, all those times we both have met,
And I reckon you’ll be wondering how on earth you could forget.
But we sometimes lose direction, for the maze of life is vast,
And forget that we’re connected to the future and the past.”
The stranger’s glass was empty so I filled it to the brink,
And I knew when he said “Thank you” that it wasn’t for the drink.
He walked toward the doorway with a new, determined air,
And I swear I heard him whistling, ‘Advance Australia Fair’.