© Ron Stevens, 2007

Winner, 2008 ‘Coo-ee Festival — Outback Section,’ Gilgandra NSW.

“Come on Dad,” she pleads. Why would I stay
in this lifeless living room
where I broke my arm the other day
when I tangled with a broom?
It’s my daughter Eve here in the hall,
with her fingers at my sleeve,
as I sense blank writing on the wall,
urging ‘Time for you to leave’.

It is happening more often now,
this insistent voice of Fay’s
calling from her spirit world somehow
to assist me through a maze
of forgotten places, missing years
and events I can’t believe.
We have reached the door and still my ears
are recording ‘Time to leave’.

Was it yesterday, the auction sale?
Someone said to sell the farm.
“I’m concerned your mother’s getting frail.
Did you hear I broke my arm?
If the wind should change you’ll keep that frown...
Yes, I understand that, Eve:
I’ll be safer in that place in town
and it’s time for us to leave.”

“Could you ask the strangers coming here
to be careful of Mum’s rose,
planted by the pump shed forty year...
Fred was only three. Who knows,
if your brother hadn’t drowned perhaps...”
Is it true loved houses grieve?
Will the soul of our old house collapse
now that I’m the last to leave?

Gee, we still need rain. “Those sheep aren’t mine!
On agistment? Tommy Lee?
I remember. No, I’m feeling fine.”
Well, goodbye old pepper tree
where I backed the Chev and Fay looked on
while together neighbours Steve
and...and...someone...God, he’s also gone.
Now it’s time for me to leave.

“Yes, I’m comfy in the front. How far
to the old folk’s home? Okay –
the retirement hostel.” Nice new car;
must have cost a few years’ pay.
“Are you working at the doctor’s still?”
Yes, you thought I was naive
for the very week your Mum took ill,
you decided you would leave.

I could very easily fall asleep,
with the movement of this car
and the sun...this block that’s going cheap
is the best we’ve seen by far.
We can marry now. They say the war
will be over soon and we’ve –
let’s see – seven days is all before
I’ll be going back from leave.

“No, I won’t get out. I must go home,
whoever you are, please Miss.
I am not the type who likes to roam.
Don’t get angry over this.
The place for me is with Fay and Fred
and my baby daughter Eve.
What is that you’re saying? Who is dead?…”
Then it’s time for me to leave.

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