© Tom McIlveen

Winner, 2013 Cervantes Country Music Festival, Bush Poetry Competition.

Perceptive, tough and shrewd, you favoured space and solitude
and often seemed uneasy in a crowd.
A quieter man than most, you never felt a need to boast,
and always stood determined, strong and proud.

I saw you in a dream, beside a winding mountain stream,
that trickled down beside an old lagoon.
Surrounded by the shade, that redgum eucalypts had made,
you told me, that you’d left us all too soon.

I saw you Johny Mack, beside the Goatee Mountain track,
up where the apple trees were growing wild.
A place where you had said, just down behind the shearing shed,
that I had wandered with you, as a child.

Your spirit lingers there; I felt its presence everywhere,
and heard you in these words as they reveal
soft voices in the breeze, which gently whisper through the trees,
that grow along the Coburn and the Peel.

From somewhere in my dream, I heard a shrilling distant scream,
as screeching cockatoos began to rise.
With wings of snowy white, they surged and soared in sudden flight,
and blanketed the black and crimson skies.

Their sulphur crested hues had mingled gold with reds and blues
of river gums that grew along the Peel.
A symphony of sound reverberating all around,
with tones that sounded eerie and surreal.

As lightning lit the sky and thunder rumbled in reply,
I saw a silhouette of phantom men.
They seemed to vaporize, as I began to visualize
them merging with the shadows once again.

To where the wattles bloom without despondency or gloom,
and magpies yodel in another day.
Their tinkling crystal tones, resembling water over stones,
had cheered my heart and soothed my cares away.

Awaking from my dream, I found myself beside that stream,
no longer in the hazy twilight zone.
I’d dozed off in the shade, as drifting memories had strayed
and left me here bewildered, all alone.

The ghost of Johny Mack still rides along that winding track,
where Goatee Mountain apple trees are wild.
I felt his presence there, it seemed to linger in the air.
where I had wandered freely as a child.

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