The Singer and his Song
© David Campbell

Winner, 2012 Henry Lawson Society of NSW Literary Award, Gulgong NSW.

Each day a busker stands and sings,
and with his songs he always brings
a sense of places I once knew,
of people good and strong and true.
I pass him on the city streets;
he nods as with a smile he greets
the regulars who walk on by
and never fail to catch his eye.

I’m finding now I tend to stop
and listen for a while, then drop
a coin or two into his case
before I join the daily race
to reach the top, to make the grade,
to climb the ladder and get paid
a wage that shows, in style and dress,
that I’ve become a great success.

I have the right accessories…
a laptop, iPhone, sports car keys,
a host of friends, a good degree,
a fine apartment by the sea…
and yet he haunts me through the day,
this busker with the tunes to play
that speak to me of times long gone,
which I had ceased to think upon.

For when he strums his old guitar
he calls back visions from afar,
of valleys cloaked in morning’s mist,
and mountains with their peaks just kissed
by dawn’s first rays of golden sun,
to herald that the day’s begun.
And I am scrambling from my bed,
with shadowed dreams still in my head.

The dogs are barking at the door,
my father’s boots thump on the floor,
the rooster’s crowing in the yard,
the water pipes are frozen hard,
my mother has the stove alight
to warm the kitchen as I fight
to banish sleep, and work on through
the many chores that I must do.

A paddock fence will need repair,
I have to check the chestnut mare
for she is almost due to foal,
and then I have to block the hole
a fox dug in the chicken run,
before I set out with my gun
to see if I can find his track
and bring that thieving villain back.

And somewhere in each long, slow day
I’ll take the chance to get away,
to ride the colt up through the hills,
where in the forest birdsong fills
the air with music sweet and clear,
then carried on the breeze I hear
a sound I know can only be
a mob of brumbies running free.

Yet now my ears are filled with noise,
assaulted by our city toys…
the roar of buses, trucks and cars,
the throb of pubs and late-night bars,
the constant talk in strident tones
of people on their mobile phones.
No scent of wattle fills the air…
exhaust fumes choke each thoroughfare.

My office is a busy place,
where I maintain a frantic pace
by shuffling papers to and fro,
and telling bosses what I know,
yet still, through all my working day
I never seem to find a way
to do much good, for I produce
not one damn thing of any use.

And now I stand for one last time
before the busker, knowing I’m
not coming back, the die is cast…
I’ve nailed my colours to the mast.
I leave a hundred-dollar note,
and memo page on which I wrote:
“For showing me where I belong,
I thank the singer and his song.”

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