© Ron Stevens

Joint Winner, 2009 ‘ABPA Victorian Bush Poetry Championship’, Benalla, Victoria.

Here, have another beer, Old Mate, you look to be quite wrecked.
A beer or two helps insulate against this drought’s effect.
I’m sorry I can’t offer you a Scotch but I’ve cut back
on costs and had a full review on spending I can hack.
That’s why I’m only drinking beer until we get some rain.
I’ve warned my children loud and clear we’re heading down the drain.

We’ve only got one telly set; I’ve sold the other two
to pay that greedy blasted vet whose bills were overdue.
So when the kids have finished all their farmyard jobs, they’re free
to watch the cricket or football I’ve picked that night for me.
To all of them, I’ve emphasized the nature of our plight:
economies must be devised and belts drawn ever tight.

I brushed aside their woeful bleats when I explained that Coke
and such expensive faddish treats had helped to send us broke;
that henceforth they would each partake of wholesome home-grown food
and water from the creek, to make a healthy happy brood.
We’d also rid the place of cats and guinea-pigs, galahs ─
those unproductive pets my brats have spoiled like movie-stars.

I’d better raid the fridge again: your stubby’s empty, Mate.
The kids switch off when I explain we all must pull our weight.
My motives are unselfish, based on saving Woeful Creek
from greedy banks and hurdles placed by Nature, harsh and bleak.
I’ll keep my working dogs, of course; they don’t cost much to feed.
I doubt if I need keep the horse; my ute is all I need.

The hardest choice I’ve had to make, is what to do with Kate.
I don’t suppose you’d like to take her as a favour, Mate?
You often go away for weeks, so having her on site
might put those mongrel thieving sneaks you’ve suffered from, to flight.
She’s pretty slow to move, these days ─ arthritis, due to age.
But put her somewhere, there she stays ─ no need for pen or cage.

She’d sleep okay out in your shed; is used to eating scraps
and as a treat some crusts of bread or sour milk, perhaps.
Her breeding days have long since gone; no problems there at all.
Yet since my tractor struck her scone, she’s useless, off the ball.
This euthanasia caper might be worth exploring, Mate.
But what if conscience were to bite and cause regret, too late?

I tell you what, if you’ll take her, you’ll get two cartons too.
Agreed? Okay, would you prefer Fourex or Carlton brew?
Tomorrow then, let’s drink to that. I’m glad you’ve eased my mind.
No sentiment, just cutting fat; I’m cruel being kind.
My kids will holler at the gate and I might shed some tears
to see your van drive off with Kate, my wife of thirty years.

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