© Robyn Sykes

Winner, 2013 Written Poetry Award, Henry Lawson Society of NSW Literary Awards, Gulgong, NSW; Winner, 2013 ‘Corryong Larrikin’ Award, ABPA Victorian State Championships at The Man from Snowy River Festival, Corryong, Victoria.

When our tank ran low on water in the drought, I knew I oughter
ration rainy day precipitates, in case we drank it dry.
While the farm stayed hot and hazy, the old tank stand sagged like crazy;
rust encrusted in and outside of its load would make you cry.

As I worked out in the garden, I could feel the grime all harden
on my elbows, knees and fingers, in my bra and shorts… all round,
when a crick and crack of metal saw the tank stand sway and settle
and a wall of water whoosh and swoosh, in cascades, to the ground.

With a rush and gush, a fountain tumbled down as from a mountain;
swept the heartbeat of our household hustling helplessly to waste.
Now that flush of liquid power was my one chance of a shower,
so I stripped my filthy clothes off with Olympiadic haste.

Not a creature there would tattle, not the kelpies, sheep or cattle,
so I scrubbed my dirty elbows, rinsed the sweat from under arms.
Sweet relief! My clean lips giggled as my boobs and buttocks jiggled,
for a thief of elasticity had robbed their naked charms.

And my single consolation in that lonely isolation
was to maximize enjoyment from those treasured, measured drops.
I turned up my face with wonder, closed my eyes and heard the thunder
as the tank storm rained and drained, maintained a song of plips and plops.

From a river, to a trickle, to sporadic drips so fickle
I could hear the scrunch of boot steps on the gravel near our door.
In a whirly wind of panic, my desire to hide was manic;
so I grabbed my hat and clothing and in naked glory tore…

…as my muscles pounded quickly, over grasses rough and prickly,
in a daring dash for dignity, while bits and bobs all shook.
Though my fingers gripped my Blundies, I dropped socks and bra and undies
and a trail of clothes like neon signs described the path I took.

When I hid behind the tractor, the one thing I didn’t factor
in – our nosey stock and station agent striding down the track!
Then the hayshed promised shelter, so I raced there helter skelter –
but a rat in rabid terror ran towards my bolting back.

“Oh dear God please send a bunker, deep and dry where I can hunker…”
Lo! That narrow ovine swimming hole, the sheep dip, offered rest.
Mutely flattened down inside it, I heard footsteps pass outside it –
while my life blood raced and braced and chased the demons in my chest.

But my batteries had run flat, all I had were boots and sunhat,
I concocted a bikini with materials in reach.
With my sunhat as my undies and my Blundies over sundries,
I pretended I had dozed off in the sun down at the beach.

Well, my dreams turned to a nightmare as those RM boots stopped right there;
as I peeked, my eyes confirmed the agent’s face resembled chalk.
I said, “Working on my suntan.” He gasped, “Really gotta run, man.”
Promptly shot back to his Hilux like an unplugged champagne cork.

Now, I don’t know if he’ll chatter, but it doesn’t really matter
for my hubby has decided that we need some time away.
We’ll be going to the ocean, where I’ll buy some sunblock lotion
and there’ll be no talk of suntans on our seaside holiday.

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