THE LEMON TREE
© Ron Stevens
Winner, 2014 Bush Poetry Festival – Written Competition, Dunedoo NSW.
You ask me are there moments I recall as dear,
if lights shine from my childhood, cardinal and clear?
Remembrance treads unlikely roads when prodded so,
by-passing petty paths to glory years ago
downgraded, seen today as circles in the sand.
My backtrack journey shows no milestones bold or grand,
no fancy footsteps down an oak-lined boulevard.
I halt beside the lemon tree in Granny’s yard.
I’m young again, yet it has always shown its years
with dignity, respected both for fruit and spears.
My granny can be prickly too when all we kids
are fighting over marbles – dids and didn’ts, dids
and knuckles down square tight – the wrongs and rights for play
and life developed here each nineteen-thirties day.
With doors and gate unlocked, nobody needs stand guard
on treasures round the lemon tree in Granny’s yard.
A scooter, rusty bike and skew-whiff billycart
are shared; and battered gloves to learn the noble art.
The ring’s defined by markings scraped in barren dirt
and protocol dictates no littlie suffers hurt.
With washing hung, our Granny’s staring off somewhere
and wipes her eye as though a phantom’s stirred the air;
perhaps reminding her our Dad, her son, once sparred
beside a sapling lemon tree in Granny’s yard.
The older kids recall his death and Mum’s as well
soon after, but for me the world began with smell
of chooks, wild choko vines, a kelpie we’d named Dope
and Granny’s pet galah that screeches ‘Here’s the Pope!’
Indeed the priest appears, though Granny cannot find
the time to chat but ‘Yes, we’re coping well, and mind
you take these lemons!’ Hearts are soft, though times are hard
and bitter-sweet the lemon tree in Granny’s yard.
You might be mystified by how I have replied.
No scholars mentored me, nor sages ever vied
to guide me from the wilderness of troubled youth.
If I have safely crossed dark bridges, valued truth
and decency, it’s due to her, a lady long
since buried, who had wiped my nose and crooned a song
of County Clare that still can charm this humble bard
and fly me to the lemon tree in Granny’s yard.