© Tom McIlveen

Winner, 2012 Broken Ski Award, Snowy Mountains of Music, Perisher NSW; Bush Lantern Award, Bundaberg Qld.; Boree Log Award, FAW Eastwood/Hills NSW.

The snowy mountain ranges seem a million miles away
from where I sit and contemplate in total disarray.
A letter from my daughter had aroused a memory,
and stirred a sleeping ghost that lingers deep inside of me.

Her words were reminiscent of another’s long ago
and written with the same distinctive poise and polished flow.
‘It’s snowing Dad, this place is like a winter wonderland
and chilly Smiggins Holes is looking absolutely grand.’

‘The Guthega and Blue Cow both are blanketed in white
and Perisher has howling winds that seem to blow all night.
We caught the Ramshead Chairlift up and followed Saschas Track
to reach the frozen summit of the mighty Crackenback.’

‘We skied Kareela Cross and then the fearsome Cannonball
and finally the Funnelweb? the hardest run of all.
We spent a night in one of Cooma’s numerous motels
and woke up Sunday morning to the sound of tolling bells.’

‘The local congregation must have blessed us with a prayer,
as sunlight filtered through the mist to warm the chilly air.
We drove to Adaminaby just north of Eucumbene
and fished the icy waters of the foreshores in between.’

‘The trout declined our offerings, so feeling somewhat bold,
we hired a boat to cruise the lake, despite the sleet and cold.
The weather started turning and the sun refused to shine,
so we resumed our journey, heading south to Jindabyne.’

‘From there we headed west along the scenic Alpine Way
and booked a room at Thredbo in some fancy Swiss chalet.
I miss you Dad and truly wish that you could join us here,
and sit beside the fire and tell us tales from yesteryear.’

‘Remember how you told me that the road was made of glass,
on board the morning shuttle heading up to Charlottes Pass?
I never once considered it irrational or odd,
when told that Kosciousko was where Moses spoke to God.’

‘You said he made the Snowy flood the town of Jindabyne
and  sanctified the Mountain as an everlasting shrine.
I must have been more gullible than kids around today
who seem to be much smarter and increasingly blasé.’

‘They don’t believe in fairy tales or rainbows anymore;
it worries me to think of what their future holds in store.
They google their enquiries from the depths of cyber space,
with parents left redundant as computers take their place.’

‘I know my kids respect me and they think the world of you,
but seem to be bewildered by their father’s point of view.
He doesn’t have your principles or sense of right and wrong,
and seems to be belligerent, where you are calm and strong.’

‘He’s drinking more and seemingly about to hit the skids
and recently becoming more impatient with the kids.
I thought that this vacation would improve his attitude
and overcome his melancholic tendency to brood.’

‘Enough of my complaining Dad, I didn’t mean to moan;
I know you’ve got enough distress and problems of your own.
I’m signing off and hoping that this letter finds you well.
I miss you more than any written words could ever tell!’

The irony had struck me with a sense of déjà vu,
as memories came flooding back and haunted me anew.
Her letter was a duplicate of one I’d seen before,
unstamped and still unposted, in an empty bedroom drawer.

My wife had also written to her father long ago,
and spoke of our vacation, spent cavorting in the snow.
Her words almost identical, to those I’d just received,
explaining how she’d also felt rejected and bereaved.

The writing still was legible, though somewhat out of date,
inscribed as,‘May the twenty fifth, in nineteen sixty eight.’
She’d told him I’d neglected her, but doted on the kids,
and said that I was drinking more and soon to hit the skids.

I wonder if my absence of emotion was the cause,
that she had failed to find the key to open inner doors.
The cancer that had ravaged her and claimed her in the end,
had robbed me of a confidant, a lover and a friend.

Perhaps it was my negligence and failure to appease,
that spawned the spark to kindle that insidious disease.
A man can’t verbalise the words a woman needs to hear,
and mollify the doubts that seem to fill her heart with fear.

She needs his reassurance and a comforting embrace,
to know that she is more than just another pretty face.
The petals of a rose, like some exotic butterfly,
will fade away without the sun, succumb, and slowly die.

If I could travel back in time and face my guilt and shame,
I’d abdicate my fickle flaunt of affluence and fame.
Judiciously I’ve come to understand and realise,
the rainbow I’d been searching for was there inside her eyes.

If I could only hold her ? I would linger for a while,
to hear her sweet melodic voice and revel in her smile.
I’d tell her, “I am yours for now and all eternity,”
and free that sleeping ghost imprisoned deep inside of me.

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