© Gregory North

Winner, 2010 Silver Brumby Award, Man From Snowy River Festival, Corryong Victoria.

Today I met your handsome son,

    an image of perfection.

He wore your features – every one –

aglow beneath the midday sun,

    your miniature reflection.

But as we met, he turned away;

    my friendship seemed rejected.

“He's just like you,” I thought today,

as I recalled to my dismay,

    we're also 'disconnected'.

We used to be the best of mates;

    we did so much together,

absconding through the school yard gates,

or hiking, lugging heavy weights

    in any kind of weather.

We carved out roads for Matchbox cars

    in musty veggie patches;

we camped beneath the shining stars,

played games from which I still have scars –

    boys shouldn't play with matches!

We always tried to do our best

    in friendly competition,

as if we both were on a quest.

I think that we were somehow blessed

    to have such strong ambition.

Today I heard you make a speech.

    With pride my eyes were glistening.

With all your skills you seemed to reach

and touch the heart and soul of each

    and every person listening.

You've grown to be a family man

    who's trusted and respected.

Your life's according to your plan,

which makes me think, “Is there a ban

    on me, that I've detected?”

I tried to visit once or twice,

    my strike-rate kept on falling.

Although she never was precise,

your spouse's greetings felt like ice,

    so then, I just stopped calling.

I thought that you might send a note,

    or somehow get in contact.

But as the months all seemed to float,

the chance of that seemed more remote.

    Did I break friendship's contract?

Today, I saw you standing brave.

    My aching heart beat loudly.

I thought of what your father gave,

as dirt was scattered in his grave.

    He must have looked on proudly.

I called to mind the secret nips

    we sampled from his liquor

(especially those early sips

that passed our pursing teenage lips

    and made our eyelids flicker).

I felt ashamed I didn't know

    about your dad's condition.

I'd met your mum with him in tow,

but still it came as quite a blow

    to hear of his attrition.

Today I shook your hand again.

    Your eyes were somehow dimmer

than in the days when we were ten –

your eyes were full of sparkle then,

    and held a welcome glimmer.

I wondered how we'd changed so much

    that now we're just 'acquainted'.

You've never said the words, as such,

but still, I felt it in your touch –

    our friendship has been tainted.

Now, was it something that I said?

    Did I commit some treason?

I've run the scenes inside my head,

but haven't picked up any thread,

    so what could be the reason?

Today I didn't share my pain;

    I knew that yours was greater.

I'm hoping that my face showed plain

that we could still be friends again,

    catch up a little later.

The next time that I meet your son,

    extending salutation,

I hope he's not as quick to shun,

rejecting, like his dad has done,

    my humble admiration.

Till then I'll keep my hopes at bay

    recalling past affections,

accept that some things must decay,

including heart aches felt today,

    and childhood recollections.