© Brenda Joy, 2013

Winner, 2013 Outback Section – Coo-ee March Festival, Gilgandra, NSW.

He will muster no more where the rubber vines tangle
round the hooves of the cleanskins that scuff in the creek.
He is deaf to the roar as the mickey bulls wrangle
for control of the heifers in gullies that reek
of the bovine that gnaw at the tufts and the mangle
as they churn up the sand to reach water they seek.

Now his vision is blurred and his past’s an impression
as the toll of his aging imposes its blight.
Gone the days with the herd beneath starlight’s progression,
in a camp by the river in lunar-lit light,
where the dreaming was stirred under cover of hessian
as the cowbells and hobble chains sang through the night.

In the dawn of his days, in the mist of a morning,
he would ride in the saddle through gossamer veils.
In the noon’s miraged haze he’d succumb to the yawning
of the shade-seeking mob on the overland trails —
ever watchful his gaze, ever heeding the warning
of climatic extremes telling skeleton tales.

Through the pleasures and pains he was lured by the bridges
of the rainbows, to secrets that Nature would keep.
Saturated by rains and tormented by midges,
forging succulent valleys or mountains so steep,
he would challenge the plains and the wild, stony ridges
in a land full of distance where centuries sleep.

Now in cloistered surrounds summer times are long over,
as the numbing of winter envelops so fast.
And yet freedom abounds in the heart of the rover:
He can roam in those seasons not destined to last,
for the sights and the sounds of his time as a drover
still reside in his dreams of a life unsurpassed.

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