Rod Williams, Bush Poetry

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Requiem for a Pioneer — Preamble

My constant dream as a young boy, was to become a professional Drover.
One day when I was carrying on about leaving school early to do just that, my father handed me a book of Henry Lawson's collected works and marked two pages — the poem, ‘Past Carin’ and short story, ‘The Drover's Wife’.

They stuck in me — and a few years later when I first headed into Nth–West NSW and Sth–West Qld, working as a stockman — I heard a few stories about situations where women had either abandoned properties, suffered in desperate Loneliness or committed suicide.
I had to read between the lines and mumblings a bit, but never in any of these cases had I heard of any blame being aimed at the Drover husband.
I know which job I'd prefer and that was so with every drover I ever knew.

So it's little wonder that when I read this poem from ‘Lifemarks’ — a book Max Merchenschlager had sent me — that I wanted to go out and read it to the world and put some balance and truth into an important part of Australia's History.

In Max's words ‘Requiem for a Pioneer’ is .. “based on a story of an Englishwoman from the Hallett/Mt Bryan region of Sth Australia who became so depressed by loneliness during her drover husband's long absences that she took her own life.”

Requiem for a Pioneer

You said I'd learn to love the land, my heart
when droving drew you months from me and time became my beau
some masterpieces proved you right, like twilight's crimson glow
that bled the distance holding us apart

this hut has been my sanctuary and cell
a refuge from the elements of heat and brooding rains
a jail for my emotions wearing isolation's chains
a bushland heaven wrapping of my hell

and when the rays of breaking dawn rode out and kissed you
I stretched my lonely arm to where you sleep and missed you

I've stared at hands of solitaire, my heart
the diamond nights of glitter and the golden days of gleam
but every task I started soon became a silent scream
my shaking writer's quill, a poisoned dart

the painting of my homeland on the wall
has been a prison window to the world I left behind
sweet melodies of nightingale to memory's confined
replaced by raven's sombre, mocking call

and when the rays of dawn rode out each day and kissed you
I stretched my lonely arm to where you sleep and missed you

I've waited with your hobbled horse, my heart
and watched you spread your midnight swag beneath a blaze of stars
in trees above your campsite slumbered gangs of pink galahs
exploding when the dawning begged a start

beside a ford you crossed, I washed my hair
you paused and let your thirsty mob enjoy a leisured fill
the trail dust settled softly and the breathless day sat still
while choral hymns of crickets blessed the air

I've circled over purple peaks, my heart
while far below you struggled on to find a hidden soak
the weary stock were mindless, every step a laboured yoke
their instinct and your expertise the chart

and as the rays of breaking dawn rode out and kissed you
I stretched my lonely arm to where you sleep and missed you

for this has been my passion and my pain
to be with you in fancy on your overlanding trails
I've plotted all your progress and I've scripted all your tales
my heart, I shan't be doing that again

the Outback paints my final morn of art
I'll leave our backdoor open to receive each sun that sets
and when in time you enter, there must be no grim regrets
farewell until the Endless Dawn, my heart

but if the rays of breaking dawn are late or miss you
I'll come again in dreams to where you sleep and kiss you

the Outback paints my final morn of art
I'll leave the backdoor open to receive each sun that sets
and when in time you enter, there must be no grim regrets
farewell, until the Endless Dawn, my heart.

© Max Merckenschlager.
‘Lifemarks’ –– Ginninderra Press.

Travel The Red Road – Dare To Dream — Preamble

One of the most beautiful and strangest phenomenons in this country is the “Min–Min” light. I learnt to love and respect the “Min–Min” (as a young shearer) while travelling the long red stony roads that ran through the heart of their territory.
Particularly those running the vastness of far south–western Queensland — before the bitumen was laid down — and an era came to an end.
This is when this journey began and there are many memories and verses locked up in my heart. I released eight in the year 2000, added three more a few years later and about three years ago suddenly another two verses came forth from The Dreaming. It will continue to grow.
The Red Road is a journey, my spiritual journey through the heart of this land and I would like to share it with you. This is “My Country”!

Travel The Red Road – Dare To Dream

Travel the red road — dare to dream
From the eastern shores to the opal seam –
That weaves down through the red earth deep
Out in the heart in a timeless sleep.
Below the ground or above the trees
Where the western wind at its restless ease –
Whispers the stories far and wide
From the Barcoo's banks to the big Broome tide.

Travel the red road, stop with me
Beneath the spread of the Wilga tree,
As night comes down from your head to heal
Through all your body and mind you feel
The force, that comes and never lies
As naked under the naked skies
You sit, till the stars burn in your soul –
And lay you out in your blanket roll.

From the Roper down to the sweeping shores
Where the mighty Southern Ocean roars –
Where Aurora's colours change the sky
As flashing and flaming on they fly.
Then hurtled back from the dazzling sights
To the stony ground and the ‘Min–Min’ lights –
Where we'll not know if we can't see,
Where we belong in the mystery.

Skimming the tops of the Great Divide
From north to south down the eastern side –
The Gibraltar Range and Hanging Rock
To the plateau heights of Nowendoc.
Drifting above the Tumut trees
We rise with the sharp Talbingo breeze –
Through the chill of the Kosciusko night
And follow the Snowy's southbound flight.

The sounds of the ancient ocean roar
From the caves beneath the Nullabor –
To Augusta's crystal stalactites
Then up to the dazzling floral sights.
The world's most precious flower display
Would cheer a heart on the saddest day –
Colours and styles that breed at will
It humbles me, in silence, still!

The brolga's dance on the western land
By lakes and swamps on the coarse red sand –
The black swan's glide on the Lachlan Reach
Then preen themselves on the inland beach.
The setting sun in a backdrop bright
Five hundred pelicans trail in flight –
Across the blazing western skies
It's painted forever on my eyes.

In the channel country the poppies grew
A humbling sight in that startling view –
With a man who had waited fifty years
From the saddle we saw his joy and tears.
For the rain had come and the heat was right
Creating Paradise overnight –
In silence grown men gazed in awe
To the four who dreamed it was heaven's door.

Springtime ends with a sharp surprise
Sunset, singeing, threatening, skies –
Bright, burnt–orange, horizon–blaze
Warns of heat in the coming days.
Long summer months have now begun
Mirages taunt in the blinding sun –
Frogs, marsupials — can't not be found
Digging deep under hot red ground.

The dust blows up and in my eyes
From the mulga scrub I have seen it rise –
High in the air and it blocked the sun
And none knew why and none could run.
It lifted o'er the land so free
And drifted across the Tasman Sea –
Rich red dust on a crisp white bed
It turned the snow on the mountains red.

Oh, heart of a brooding weathered land
Beating for those who understand –
But, bleeding because of those who don't
And dying because of those who won't.
Fragile, special and sacred place
If we care about her we must face
The task at hand and the cancer halt,
Or watch her drown in a sea of salt.

Dusk; down river from Carrathool
Peace by a sacred water pool –
Shadows cast by the half–moon light
Form ghostly shapes in the spectral night.
Scorpio etched o'er the eastern rim
In Dreamtime's world my eyes now dim –
Creatures from branches gnarled and burled
Reflect in the Murrumbidgee world.

In firelight glow at the Bulloo's bend
Where the sickest soul can heal and mend –
Like a steady flow of muscat–wine
Where the spirits meet and their hearts entwine.
And dance with the tree–tops in the light
Like diamond tips on a moonlight night –
Bitterness gone and the anger too
With an ancient robe, it will cover you.

The ‘red road’ runs through every heart
And it beckons you to make a start –
Wondering whether you will decide
To take that long enduring ride
Come; lay your swag by the sandalwood
When the air is fresh and the feeling good –
You are welcome with your heavy load
Stop and dream by the long red road.

The red road

© Roderick Williams — 2000.
Modified 2011 — Five new verses.