© 2010 – David Campbell

Winner, 2010 ‘Gold Nugget Award’, Charters Towers, Queensland.

The drought was bad enough, but then the markets fell,
and things got very tough, a brutal road to hell.
The bank just wouldn’t wait another single day,
and left us to our fate because we couldn’t pay.

We simply had no choice, no chance to say goodbye,
no claim, no hope, no voice; no time to wonder why
the sweat of all those years could vanish into dust,
with nothing left but tears and dreams of shattered trust.

We had to walk away and leave our home behind,
yet nothing we could say would put it out of mind.
We carried it around, forgetting was in vain,
and any sight or sound could bring it back again.

No matter where we were I saw the red-dirt track,
the house a distant blur, the valley sloping back
to hills in purple haze, deep shadows cast on high
by sunset’s brilliant blaze across a burning sky.

It broke my father’s heart; the loss of all he’d known
just tore his life apart and left us on our own.
My mother was distraught and found she couldn’t cope,
where once she might have fought she now abandoned hope.

The change came very fast, and almost overnight
my mother shed her past and vanished from my sight.
Instead of joy and pride I now saw sad neglect,
for nothing satisfied, she lost her self-respect.

She had to be in care, but hated what I’d done,
and said it wasn’t fair, that I was not her son,
for sons don’t walk away and let their mothers cry
in rooms so bleak and grey, a lonely place to die.

The nurses do their best and keep her fed and clean,
but nothing meets the test of all that might have been.
For now this double blow has left a tortured soul,
a woman I don’t know, a mind that’s far from whole.

My mother was the strength behind my father’s arm,
who’d go to any length to keep us safe from harm.
But now her eyes are cold, her voice is harsh and shrill,
so suddenly grown old as grief has sapped her will.

She spends her days in dreams and conjures up a life
where nothing’s as it seems, she’s still a farmer’s wife.
The past and future merge and form a strange new place
where truth and lies converge in fractured time and space.

I visit her each day, but can’t do very much.
There’s little I can say; a photograph, a touch
might bring a kindly word, a nodding of the head,
but then her anger’s stirred, and curses reign instead.

She doesn’t see the pain her fevered outbursts cause,
and won’t let me explain; she simply doesn’t pause,
but seeks to lay the blame on anyone who’s there,
and, lacking any shame, she rages in despair.

She’s driven off her friends, for they no longer call;
they cannot comprehend the swiftness of her fall.
Now as the days drift by she’s mostly on her own,
but cannot see just why she should be so alone.

It haunts me in the night; I mourn for all we’ve lost,
and question what is right while adding up the cost.
We have a home no more, our family’s destroyed,
and we cannot restore the life we once enjoyed.

For dawn’s harsh daylight brings a truth that’s hard to learn,
that fate has many swings, a future we must earn.
And when we walk away, which sometimes has to be,
there is a price to pay, as nothing comes for free.

But money can’t begin to halt the greatest fall,
for love of kith and kin is precious to us all.
Though luck can wax and wane, possessions come and go,
we have the most to gain when hope has room to grow.

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