© Ellis Campbell

Equal Winner 2009, ‘ABPA Victorian State Championship’, Benalla Victoria.

When the autumn leaves have fallen and the frost gleams on the slope –
and the fertile fields lie fallow, stretching far in folds of brown –
I will dream again of Beechley with an everlasting hope,
and the comforting embracement of its spreading eiderdown.
Sixty years of love cascading from a distant, heartless town.

Oh, the poignant visions haunting of a time beyond recall,
when I wandered through its valleys, in a maze of boyhood dreams.
I remember balmy springtime and the shadows in the fall –
with a wave of aching sadness—how much sweeter now it seems!
Sixty years I blundered blindly, chasing hordes of empty schemes.

I remember early morning rides—before the rising sun –
dusky kangaroos all hopping in their regulated queues.
Hear the squawking crow’s drear calling echo over Beechley run –
see the craggy cliff tops looming with their everlasting views.
Sixty years I’ve vaguely hungered for some simple outback news.

And again I feel between my knees the chestnut gelding Tex –
feel his surging power thrill me as we race to wheel a steer.
There was never one to best him through the scrub and spinifex,
as we mustered stock for drafting in the springtime every year.
Sixty years without my stockhorse, but tonight he seems so near.

Oh, the lathered flanks and swirling dust—I see so clearly yet –
hear the thundered hooves awakened and the horns resounding clash.
And again I smell the equine stench of foam-stained horses’ sweat –
hear the crunch of hooves on gravel and the broken timber’s crash.
Sixty years ago I left there in a search for better cash.

But the hazards of a drifter’s life waylaid me down the years –
when my drunken sprees and gambling took their toll with shamed regret.
It’s too late to voice my self-disgust or shed reproachful tears –
or to curse myself for foolishness I never can forget.
Sixty years of wasted lifetime leaves a galled, repulsive debt.

To the westward wooded rangers sketched distinct in sky-line’s hue,
and to nor’ward smudged horizons where the sky and earth entwine.
To the south calm water shimmered on a lake of distant blue,
and to eastward waved majestic stringybark and resin pine.
Sixty years these visions linger through this legacy of mine.

I see the azure bluebell, blooming on the mountainside,
and the sighing oaks along the river waving in the breeze.
Smell again the wattle’s fragrance as I wander misty-eyed –
see its yellow blossom clustered through a scene of waving trees?
Sixty years my mind has savoured many treasures such as these.

I can hear the cattle lowing and the foxes bay at night,
hear the mournful mopokes calling—see the jaunty emus stalk.
Hear the wallabies go crashing from intruders in their flight –
see the clumsy wombats waddle in their own peculiar walk.
Sixty years recalled nostalgia blurs my vision as I talk.

Let its warm west wind caress me, as the sun is sinking low,
hear it rustle through the tree leaves as it whispers on its way
Hear the bullocks’ bellow echo where the sluggish waters flow,
see the dust-clouds drifting dully on a droughty summer’s day.
Sixty years I’ve idly wandered through the regions far away.

To return’s a poignant longing, aching ever in my soul.
Could I see tomorrow’s dawning—feel its dew upon my cheek?
Taste the tang of mountain air again, beside a water hole –
hear the whispers gently murmured, only bushland creatures speak?
Sixty years of wistful longing, but my future’s looming bleak.

For the drab grey walls surround me where a pale light filters through,
and there’s aeroplanes in thousands with their never ending drone.
I hear whine of ceaseless traffic, flitting past but out of view –
and the forms that vaguely mutter in a senseless monotone.
Sixty years left me a zombie in a nursing home alone. 

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