THE SHAME OF STAYING PUT

© Ron Stevens


Winner, 2009 Banjo Paterson Writing Awards -Bush Poetry Section, Orange NSW.


I’ve read The Shame of Going Back

perhaps a dozen times,

appreciating Lawson’s knack

of probing wounds through rhymes.

Today my latest browsing brought

an unexpected thrill,

occasioned by a vagrant thought:

the shame of standing still.


Depends upon each circumstance

and options that exist.

When peers go chasing rainbows, chance

their luck with coin or fist,

the cautious mate who stays behind

might well need cheering up

from being sneeringly assigned

humiliation’s cup.


A poster during World War One

had bellowed I Need You!

so if a target dad or son

held back while bugles blew

he risked a feather, craven white,

to mark his painful choice.

Had ailing wife or parents’ plight

impressed with softer voice?


Mob-rule’s a dark phenomenon

which sometimes clouds this land.

When ugly crowds go raging on

who makes a passive stand?

Who calls for reason, rule of law,

as slogans flail like hail?

An elder fearing race-hate war,

lest petrol bombs prevail.


A child who’s urged to have a go

because all others do,

might swim against the current flow

of driftage termed true-blue.

Yet such a child ought not be shamed

for clinging to the bank,

rejecting drugs and vessels claimed

as buoyant but which sank.


We’ve changed a bit since Lawson’s day,

though no-one’s held to blame.

Tycoons who safely fail to pay

their debts don’t suffer shame.

Their cups have nicely overflowed

with Bollinger and greed,

while battlers trudge the circuit road

through failure, guilt and need.


Upon the backs of battlers ride

the Canberra elite,

aloof and proud, self-satisfied,

no blisters on their feet.

They hold no fears of slinking back

to penury or shame,

for super  beckons down the track

─ a selfish stay-put aim.


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