© Milton Taylor

Winner, 2008 ‘Bush Lantern Award’, Bundaberg, Queensland.

With foam flying forth from her nostrils whilst escaping her serpentine course,
The monster disguised as a river had exploded with breathtaking force.
And she visited vengeful destruction on those who would harness her might,
Puny mortals who’d ponded and dammed her, fled her fury in terrified flight.

And the buildings that stood within flood reach, each one cradling an optimist’s dream
Soon yielded in hopeless submission to the brown serpent’s onrushing stream.
All the symbols of Man’s domination like mere matchsticks were carried away
As the playthings of Nature’s rebellion and were scattered like toys on the clay.

With the dawn, when her rage had subsided and her damage was clear to assess,
Stood the gold miners, settlers and families in grim postures of hollow distress,
All surveying the shards of ambitions and hopes now encrusted with silt.
Some sorrowed, some shrugged off their turmoil with plans for an empire rebuilt.

And my family responded with sureness which reflected the creed of their roots.
Dour Scots folk observing the chaos, flexed their muscles and laced up their boots
To tackle the muck-laden debris and digested the curse of the rain
With stoic acceptance; determined to chase after rainbows again.

In the process of wreckage inspection, as we searched for a possible use
For flotsam deposits aplenty, (and for kids, a delightful excuse
To live out imagined adventures as a trail-blazing, fear-nothing band)
We found Granddad, crouched over a body face down in alluvial sand.

A young man, no older than twenty, with the brand of an immigrant’s face,
Blonde haired and fair skinned, such a pity to be drowned in this desolate place
Far away from the land of his birthing, and Granddad cried, “What has he done?
He must have been somebody’s darlin’. He must have been somebody’s son.”

At the urging of detailed instructions we then carried that beautiful lad
To a spot where he might rest untroubled, where Grandfather whispered, “’tis bad.
So bad that you’re here, bonny laddie, and ‘tis sad that your family’s in pain
But you’re safe with me, Somebody’s Darlin’; the water won’t get you again.”

So we laid him to slumber in reverence with those words often used in the kirk,
Then the family resumed reconstruction; rolled their sleeves up and went back to work.
For survival came first in their thinking and the future belonged to the bold,
Not an unknown, unfortunate digger who had perished in searching for gold.

But the old fellow, secretive, silent, had focused the strength of his toil
On a timber slab salvaged he’d crafted and posted down into the soil
At the head of the grave of his foundling, and in language we all understood
Were the simple words, “Somebody’s Darling” carved deep in the grain of the wood.

And he tended his little shrine daily, often asking the question of God,
Why the surrogate son he’d adopted should lie closeted under the sod.
Came the day when we found him, just sleeping, so it seemed, lying down at the side
Of the bed of his precious companion; at his sacred spot, Granddad had died.

When the boom times of gold heard their death knell and where little remained there to find,
Like others, we sought greener pastures and we left our failed venture behind.
And the worst thing of all in my leaving were two graves overlooking the glen,
With their poignancy etched in my psyche that years after, still come again.

And when wild tempests waken the serpent and she slithers in search of her prey,
While paying scant heed to men’s protests and exacting the price they must pay,
Out of reach, quite secure from the monster as its flanks gouge the sides of the hill,
Is where Somebody’s Darling lies sleeping, and old Grandfather tends to him still.

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