HENRY’S ECSTASY

© Stephen Whiteside


Winner, 2010 ‘Henry Lawson Festival of Arts Poetry Competition – Humorous Section’, Grenfell, NSW.


Now Lawson went to Heaven, which will make some people shout,

“That’s really just not on, you know. Hey, what’s this all about?

The scoundrel was a drunkard.  He abused his wife and kids.

Half his life was spent in gaol, and half was on the skids.”


The pearly gates are broad and wide, and Henry passed with ease

Through the lavish gilted archway.  He was told, “Go where you please.”

For it’s true he was a drunkard, but the man was so much more,

And he’d more than squared the ledger when they tallied up the score.


So he chose a distant corner where the writers seem to cluster,

But he hesitated slightly, not sure he would pass muster,

For there before him stood Mark Twain and Herman Melville, too,

And Robert Louis Stevenson — a right rip-roaring crew.


Mark Twain led the trio. “We’ve been watching you down there.

We know you’ve had your troubles. Yes, the world can be unfair.

We know Australia loved you, but you sought a wider fame.

The cards were stacked against you, though.  You never won that game.


“Well, up here it is different.  We don’t want any fuss,

But we’re very glad to welcome you, and make you one of us.

‘The Drover’s Wife’ can stand with pride beside my own ‘Huck Finn’.

Lawson’s troubled features changed into a boyish grin.


“And as for me,” said Robert L., “It’s true, I must confess.

‘The Loaded Dog’ is ev’ry bit as great as Long John S.”

“And you?” he spoke to Melville as he sauntered to the fore.

“You’ve written reams of stuff to rival ‘Moby Dick’, and more.”


Henry looked quite satisfied, his arms across his chest.

“I didn’t want to die, you know, but Heaven’s just the best!

You’re right, of course.  I knew success, but craved a broader fame.

It tickles me to death to see that you guys know my name!”


Then Victor Hugo entered. “Merely books, or true show-biz?

You know they based a musical upon my own ‘Les Mis’.

‘I Dreamed a Dream’, now there’s a tune much lauded by the throng.

I’m sure that Susan Boyle one day will sing a Lawson song.”


Henry now was speechless.  His jaw hung open, slack.

Twain offered him a chair before he had a heart attack.

“A song of mine?  Do you believe? No! Really? Susan Boyle?

Well, that would more than compensate the years of grief and toil.


“’Andy’s Gone with Cattle’, say, or maybe ‘Reedy River’”,

And down his spine there ran the most euphoric, sizzling shiver.

They left him there upon his chair, and tip-toed from the place,

Henry Lawson, lost to all... a grin upon his face.

 

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