© Caroline Tuohey
Winner 2013, John O'Brien Festival Poetry Competition and Jim Angel Award, Narrandera NSW.
The drought that went for ten years straight left some souls quite destroyed,
as farming fields no longer was a job to be enjoyed.
The river levels dropped right down, and wetlands all turned dry.
And hay was bought to feed the stock, although the price was high.
The rain tanks slowly emptied; water had to come by truck.
But everyone stayed hopeful saying “this is rotten luck.”
And country people soldiered on, their faces showing strain,
from days, then weeks, then months and months, of not a drop of rain.
So one dry year turned into two, and temperatures all soared,
and farmers all across the state used fodder they had stored.
As sheep staved off starvation, in a tragic half-grown crop,
we really started wondering, just when the dry would stop.
Years three and four did in the stock; some died, the rest were sold.
“It’s climate change,” the experts said, “you’ve all been warned and told.”
But old folk, they thought different: “every hundred years there’s pain.
It seems once every century, it fails to pour with rain.”
Years five and six the fields lay bare, devoid of crop or beast.
And jobs were got in locals towns, to pay for food at least.
Then dust storms raged the next two years - turned daytime into night.
They blew away the topsoil and the farmers’ will to fight.
Tragically, some took their lives – they just saw no way out.
The rest of us all cried with grief, from sadness all about.
I cursed the drought and yelled out loud “we’ve struggled all in vain!
No people on the land can live without a decent rain.”
Then just as things could get no worse, good news was told to all:
That nasty old El Niño was about to crash and fall.
Most weather men said rain should fall across our thirsty land.
So farmers all phoned up their banks while holding cap in hand.
Just one more loan is all they asked, while knowing too darn well,
without that rain they’d lose their farm - the bank would make them sell.
The land was now a money pit, a big financial drain,
all because it seemed it had forgotten how to rain.
Weeks later large black clouds rolled in, the air went very still.
The smell of rain, ah could it be, and if so, what a thrill.
It started softly while we slept - an answer to our prayer.
Next morning all around the house were puddles everywhere.
And though the years of childhood were now decades in the past,
we splashed in all those puddles, and made memories to last.
The vast brown space we like to call the Riverina plain
responded quickly to that gift of soaking Autumn rain.
So now good falls have come at last and Burrunjuck is filled.
It reached the top then over walls the water slowly spilled.
The mighty Murrumbidgee - it now flows with speed and force.
We’ve gone from drought to floods along this ancient water course.
The billabongs and old lagoons have birdsong every dawn
and gardens sprout a luxury: a nice green patch of lawn.
The farmers in this special place all laugh and smile again
because it seems it has remembered, how to pour with rain.