The Ghost Of Crackenback

© Kym Eitel

Winner, 2008, Urban Country Music Festival Poetry Competition, Caboolture, Qld.

They say that there’s a ghost that haunts the Kosciusko slopes.
It hides behind the silver candle bark.
The spooky presence follows those who ride or walk the hills —
they say they feel it watching after dark.

A shadow in the fog and mist, invisible at night —
it slips between the snow gums, icy white.
Was that a breath? A twig just snapped! They know there’s something there.
Their goose bumps prove the ghost’s around alright!

When stockmen come each summer time, to muster brumby foals,
they huddle ‘round the campfire bright and red.
Their horses jitter skittish like a phantom’s on their tail
and stories of the ghost fill each man’s head.

The spooky firelight shadows dance upon the swirling mist
as ghost gums sway and groan with eerie creaks.
The stockmen hide their panic but their guts knot up with fear.
A night bird cuts the black with high-pitched shrieks.

I hear the tales the stockmen tell, embellished with their fear.
They tell of glowing eyes and rasping breath.
Exaggerated narratives of spirits, monsters, ghouls —
of ghosts that scare the bravest men to death.

But I know better, yes, I do. I know the ghost real well.
He guards each jagged gorge and mountain track.
He keeps a watchful eye upon each stranger passing by —
a stallion haunts the rugged Crackenback.

Atop the rocky precipice that juts towards the sky
the stallion stands, his head held high and proud.
His mane and tail are floating and his coat of dappled grey
is camouflaged against a stormy cloud.

I feel the stallion watching me, the wild wind whips his mane.
He’s looking very noble in his stance.
His nostrils flare — he smells me! Then I hear his throaty neigh.
He faces me and then begins to prance.

But no, I don’t feel terror as the stallion thunders near.
This mighty horse and I are best of friends.
For he and I share secrets and I’ll share them now with you …
so this is where the ghostly mystery ends.

A million dollar stallion, winning races left and right —
“Our Noble King” — a high-class thoroughbred
just vanished from his stable on a wild and stormy night.
He must have been abducted, so they said.

Reporters spread wild stories and suspicions of his theft,
and rumours flew — they cried insurance fraud.
But nothing could be proven and no information gleaned
despite his owner’s generous reward.

The hardy mountain stockmen searched the valleys and the peaks
but never found a hoof print nor a hair.
They searched the cities, beach and bush, but Noble wasn’t found.
The stallion seemed to vanish in thin air.

But if you take a secret path beneath the Cascade Falls
and squeeze between the rocks in Dingo Cave,
you’ll find a winding, stony trail that snakes along the cliff.
It’s steep and only trod by those who’re brave.

This man-made Chinese mining track from gold rush days of old,
is hidden where the wild lantanas drape —
known only by descendents of those miners, now deceased,
and that’s how Noble made his grand escape.

In years to come, they’ll muster and they’ll notice something strange.
The foals will gallop faster as they play.
They’ll bear a strong resemblance to the racehorse, Noble King,
with legs of black and coats of dappled grey!

They’ll marvel how he got there, flare the scandal up again.
Perhaps they’ll try to hunt the stallion down.
Until that time, he’ll reign supreme — the king of brumby herds
with flaming orange sunsets for his crown.

He used to stare through stable bars to snow-capped mountain peaks
where sunrise glowed with yellow, peach and blue.
He gazed towards majestic cliffs where flowers formed a mat,
and brumbies nibbled snow grass wet with dew.

A life away from racing tracks — the stress and fizz and hype,
his stall was cramped and musty, dark and small.
But when he saw the mountains, Noble’s head would lift, eyes bright.
The buildings boomed to Noble’s frantic call.

The stallion lived in misery, he yearned for freedom’s wings.
He paced and neighed, he needed to escape.
For I was Noble’s trainer and I saw his longing ache
and I’m the one who left his door agape.

Yes, I’m the one who led him on that wild and stormy night,
through rain and up that steep and rocky track.
I know where Noble’s hiding, but his secret’s safe with me.
I set him free… the Ghost of Crackenback.

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