MONARCHS OF THE AIR
(from the diary of an ‘outback’ Aussie teenager)
© Arthur Green
Winner, 2007/8 'Golden Wattle', Gippsland Victoria.
One month in which to try and live a lifetime’s hopes and dreams
is really so unfair to kids around my age it seems.
But rather than complaining `bout the things I’ll now not do,
I plan to use those thirty days to share my thoughts with you.
Why just one month? Well that’s the time that still remains from when
those tests revealed what lay ahead, three months ago, back then.
“Leukaemia is just a word,” they’d said with artful guile,
“though chemo might require a change of hair-style for a while.”
“We’re sure to find a donor whose bone marrow matches yours.”
Oh, yeah? I thought, that’s great if you believe in Santa Claus.
But let’s not dwell on stuff like that, or what I look like now.
Perhaps they’ll find that donor and we’ll beat this thing somehow.
Instead, I’d rather tell you just how Shaka won my heart.
I guess the day he first arrived might be the place to start.
It happened just two weeks ago, one day when I was ‘down’ –
a kite with small, white-feathered head and wings of reddish brown.
I’ve always felt that birds of prey were monarchs of the air,
though Brahminys like Shaka, `round these parts, are rather rare.
I wonder if he’ll stay a while perhaps and be my friend?
The doctors know I haven’t long, despite what they pretend.
- - -
It’s five days now since last I wrote and something weird’s occurred.
I think my Brahminy’s convinced that I too, am a bird.
Last week while doing chores I taped his cry from our back deck,
and ever since, each time I play it, Shaka comes to check.
He watches while I sketch him and try tempting him with meat.
I’ve never had a friend like him and find this really neat.
And he’s not had a friend like me to teach him all the ways
that teenage girls on borrowed time employ to fill their days.
- - -
Dear Diary, it’s day thirteen and there’s still no match in sight.
My doctors simply sigh now when acknowledging my plight.
That marrow-matching miracle that offered such high hopes,
has been, it seems, confounded by unfriendly isotopes.
My mum’s advanced my birthday bash to just two weeks from now.
“Why wait that extra week,” she says, “let’s hold it anyhow.”
And though she smiles and laughs as if it isn’t all that strange,
she isn’t fooling me about the reason for the change.
This coloured beanie cap Mum bought is really super cool.
I’ll bet I’d wow the kids if I could wear it back to school.
“Of course,” the doctors say, “that might not be for some time yet,”
though mum and I both know, at best, that’s just a sucker bet.
- - -
Day sixteen and last night I dreamt of places far from here;
devoid of needles, scans and drips and things I’ve come to fear;
of soaring, just like Shaka, free from pain and earthly care,
through fluffy clouds and multi-coloured rainbows way up there.
A piece on our relationship might help to pass the time,
and maybe with some photos and a verse or two of rhyme,
I’ll be, if it gets published (and I plan to persevere),
a posthumously famous, teenage female balladeer.
- - -
Just twenty days and twenty nights have now elapsed since when
I started on this diary and life’s changed so much since then.
“Oh, Shaka, who’ll look out for you, when I’m no longer here
to sit and scan the sky each day in hopes that you’ll appear?”
“Who’ll play my tape-recording of your penetrating cries
that so befit my very special monarch of the skies?
Your story’s almost finished and though Mum is really grand,
her muffled sobs at night are almost more than I can stand.”
- - -
Dear Diary, it’s now lunchtime. Shaka’s waiting to be fed.
Mum’s in the kitchen, phoning, though I can’t hear what’s been said.
My birthday bash was so much fun – more so since Shaka came.
I’ll tell you, one day, what it was that made me choose that name.
I’ve only just a few more days before my month’s complete.
Perhaps I’ll leave the rest for now `cause really, I’m dead beat.
I think I hear Mum coming, which is good, `cause Shaka here
is giving me the strangest look ... though why ... I’ve no idea.
“Jess! Jess! They’ve found a donor.” Footsteps echo down the hall.
“They say there’s still a chance we’ll beat this Cancer after all.”
Concerned at no response, her mother pauses at the door.
The pages filled with Shaka’s tale lay scattered `round the floor.
Her daughter’s eyes are closed. Her journey’s end has come to be.
Her smile of joy and happiness is plain for all to see.
The kite is nowhere to be seen. It seems their new-found friend
has shed the bond that held him there until the very end.
Then joyous kite cries draw her eyes towards the sky above,
where two kites swoop and soar in bird-like rhapsodies of love.
Two Brahminys, where moments back, there’d been but one before –
a gift of hope – a sign that none but cynics could ignore.
“Oh, Jess, could that perhaps be you with Shaka way up there?
Could I pretend that you are both now ‘monarchs of the air’?
And if such things could ever be (as mystic scribes foretell),
what ever now awaits you, Jess ... God bless ... and fare thee well.”