DISTANT DIALOGUE (on The Bulletin’s death, January, 2008)

© Ron Stevens

Winner, 2008 ‘Bush Poetry Section, Banjo Paterson Writing Awards’, Orange NSW.

“Good morning Henry, have you heard
the news from down below?
I can’t believe what’s just occurred.
It’s quite a body blow
for those of us who spend our time
on Aussie Poets’ cloud
recalling rhythmic patterns, rhyme
in verse that did us proud.”

“I’ve heard! I’ve heard! It pains me, Bart
and were I back on earth
I’d make my way quick-bloody-smart
to buy ten dollars worth
of solace from the nearest inn
to mark this tragic day
the once rumbustious Bulletin
has sadly passed away.”

“Yes, ‘passed’ is weakly apposite:
no protest banners showed;
no angered poets set alight
the publisher’s abode;
no week of mourning was declared;
no weeping in the street;
the city pulse was unimpaired
and never missed a beat.”

“Well, in the past we’ve disagreed
on city versus bush,
a topic editors decreed
would give their sales a push.
I’m hoping now some country town
where verse retains appeal
will have a poet jotting down
the misery we feel.”

“The city publishers are now
all stubbornly obsessed
with finance news, pop-stars at play
and snaps of them undressed.
Your Faces in the Street wear frowns
but no-one paints their fates
as you did, Henry; much less crowns
your derelicts as mates.”

“It’s obvious few writers now
concern themselves with verse,
yet editors will stoop and bow
to smutty tales and worse.
I note your Snowy River strikes
a chord through suburbs still,
while lads are bucked from motorbikes
up-dating Mulga Bill.”

“And one or two true gentlemen
like Dunn of Nevertire
(great portrait from your tribute pen)
are rising from the mire
of knavery and greed below.
Who’ll laud the lives they’ve led?
Our voices faded years ago;
The Bulletin is dead.”

“Its masthead motto was withdrawn,
as jingoism lapsed.
Then ─ damnable! ─ true verse forsworn.
Small wonder it collapsed.
Here, floating on these boring clouds,
there’s little we can do
but wipe the teardrops from our shrouds,
recite a verse or two.”

“I could recite my latest ─ Chill
Despatches from Irak
but we’ve already had our fill
of news that’s edged in black.
I’d rather hear your Undermined,
equating politics
with Sydney tunnels serpentined
by engineers and tricks.”

“Well, thank you Banjo but we’ve got
an urgent job to do.
While indignation’s surging hot
we have to say adieu
with fiery pen or subtle spin.
Tomorrow we’ll compare
our tributes to The Bulletin,
whose loss is hard to bear.”

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