© Tom McIlveen

Winner, 2012 ‘The Kembla Flame’, Illawarra Coast, NSW.

Like most Australian characters old Clarry was unique
and seemed to radiate an indefinable mystique.
He wore an old akubra, long before they were the craze,
and spoke in bush vernacular, unheard of nowadays.

Intriguing and enchanting, he had seemed to be endowed
with repartee and anecdotes to handle any crowd.
He’d often spin a yarn or two and entertain the bar,
with stories that were legend from Dungow’n to Nemingha.

We knew his tales were taller than a Goatee Mountain gum
and probably incited by a nip or two of rum.
Although the bar was noisy and his voice was often slurred,
his audience would hang on each and every single word.

Depending on the clientele, each yarn was modified,
and ranged from barely credible to almost bonafide.
He’d share his life adventures from an infinite array,
with some becoming folklore, and recited to this day.

A narrative he liked to share, and verbalise on cue,
was deemed to be believable and absolutely true.
It told of how he’d saved a calf from dingoes in the scrub
and placed him proudly on the bar of Joe Maguire’s pub.

‘A bowl of milk!’ he’d shouted, ‘we have come to celebrate!
And bring an extra schooner for me little orphan mate!’
Inebriated poddies were a novelty at Joe’s,
a place where patrons came in search of banter and repose.

They liked to share a social drink, to fraternise and smile,
and leave behind their cares and woes, for just a little while.
They’d seen their share of oddities within those hallowed walls,
from minor misdemeanours, to some brutal all-in brawls.

But never had they sighted such a spectacle as this;
a poddy calf enraptured in a state of bovine bliss.
Intoxicated jerseys can be difficult to gauge,
especially when still unweaned and clearly underage.

He stumbled down the bar before deciding to collapse,
on top of Joe’s best glasses and his new dispensing taps.
As gases started spewing out from broken valves and lines,
they mingled with the fumes of Bundy rum and vintage wines.

The atmosphere subsided into hushed sobriety,
as patrons gazed in wonder at this strange anomaly.
The little Aussie battler struggled gamely to his feet
and staggered further down in search of sustenance and teat.

He chose the hapless barman, standing ankle deep in beer,
and grabbed the drooping lobe suspended from his sagging ear.
He bunted in frustration at the shrivelling supply,
then realised this teat was either barren, dead or dry.

But when he sought a lower zone, just down below the waist,
the barman saw him coming and had turned around in haste.
Disgusted with this offering and feeling somewhat ill,
the homeless little vagabond had headed for the till.

He bunted once again and caused the drawer to open wide,
then overturned the register and all the cash inside.
As coins and notes had tumbled out to sink beneath the sludge,
El Toro dug his heels in and refused to yield or budge.

Regurgitating curds of milk, he left a slimy trail,
which reeked of rancid effluent and predigested ale.
Appearing almost stagnant in the sickly yellow light,
it oozed along the bar polluting everything in sight.

The filthy foetid muck had fouled the cellar liquor store,
and seeped into the lines and kegs beneath the barroom floor.
It dribbled through the kitchen wall and seemed to permeate,
through every cup and saucer, platter bowl and dinner plate.

They say the beer’s still tainted down at Joe Maguire’s pub
and many  blame those lazy dingoes prowling through the scrub.
No doubt those cagey canines would have had their gruesome way,
had Clarry not been chasing strays that consequential day.

Though Clarry’s still a legend from Dungow’n to Nemingha,
he is no longer welcome down at Joe Maguire’s bar.
Infrequently he comes at night attired in full disguise,
and rues the day he saved El Toro from his near demise.

Return to 2012 Award-Winning Poetry.

Terms of Use

All rights reserved.

The entire contents of the poetry in the collection on this site is copyright. Copyright for each individual poem remains with the poet. Therefore no poem or poems in this collection may be reproduced, performed, read aloud to any audience at any time, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without prior written permission of the individual poet.

Return to 2012 Award-Winning Poetry.