© Catherine Lee

Winner, 2013 Ipswich Poetry Feast – Open Age Poetry Award, Ipswich, Queensland.

It is morning and a mist is gently rising
from the scrub and intertwining with the gums,
while the sunlight on the wattle’s tantalizing—
and I realise today’s the day he comes!
He’s been absent way too long and I’ve been grieving,
(though I’ve had my share of duties to distract,
for this summer’s made it hard to keep believing
with the dusty, scorching harshness that’s attacked).
    But with great anticipation
    I can now make preparation—
    for my Joe will be here soon, so I must act!

There is whining from the rug beside the fire,
for the dog’s aware through instinct of his own,
and he’s pined alongside me with deep desire,
whilst confused that we’ve been left here all alone.
Now he turns to me with eyes alert, tail wagging,
so I move to pat his loyal head awhile.
He is old—I know his health is swiftly flagging—
to his death I must prepare to reconcile.
    “How you’ve suffered in frustration
    at this ghastly separation—
    but today you’ll be rewarded with his smile.”

Now it’s lunchtime and the orb has risen higher;
I’ve prepared some food, and beer to quench Joe’s thirst.
I remind myself I mustn’t be a crier,
but ensure his needs are met—that he comes first.
There’ll be time enough to talk of common sorrow—
all that’s happened to us while he’s been away—
so this too can surely wait until tomorrow,
with its promise of each boundless, joyful day!
    Now in childlike expectation
    of my nightmare’s termination
    I relax, and quietly I start to pray.

It is afternoon, and on the wide veranda
I am rocking, while the dog is lying near.
I am waiting for a rider to meander—
for my long awaited soldier to appear.
In the distance heat is shimmering and glowing
on the grass now bleached by endless days so dry,
while through kurrajongs a sultry wind is blowing,
and above lethargic kites are soaring high.
    Though I feel appreciation,
    I am lost in agitation
    as my hopes are drowned in fears I can’t deny.

It is evening now—my eyes are drooping slowly,
for another day has come and gone in vain,
and my fevered mind asks God by all that’s holy
why He doesn’t put an end to all this pain.
Once again the dog is whimpering in mourning,
for he sensed how far his master had to roam,
so I know it’s just a canine word of warning
as his tail thumps bleakly like a metronome.
    For despite my supplication
    Joe went fighting for his nation,
    and he’s fallen, and he’s never coming home.

It is supper time; the dog is fed and watered—
his devoted eyes observe me warily,
for my prayers and dreams have once again been thwarted,
yet I can’t accept my grim reality.
His support has seen me through this sad existence
and I know he understands his master’s dead,
yet he humours me and gives me no resistance—
it’s as if he hears the screaming in my head.
    He observes with adoration
    every foolish demonstration—
    knows we’ll not be hearing Joe’s familiar tread.

It is midnight and the darkness now enfolds me,
and it cloaks the Great Alone in misery;
there’s a silence so immense it grasps and holds me—
I’m a breathless captive yearning to be free.
Disbelieving, yet acknowledging my weakness,
in my heart a gaping void forever black,
not a glimmer lights the pathway from my bleakness,
for there’s nothing to replace the man I lack.
    In this trance of my creation,
    though it brings such desolation
    I reside, although he won’t be coming back.

So I wait to be relieved from this depression,
for my own eternal journey to begin;
self deceit is merely feeding my obsession,
but I cannot seem to fight the gloom within.
I imagine how I’ll rush towards that vision—
how he’ll reassure me, take me by the hand;
there will be no doubt or fearful indecision
when together we will ultimately stand.
    It will be the culmination
    to our mutual privation,
    and we’ll need no words to fully understand.

Though I miss him through each long and lonely season,
feeling desolate and stricken to the core,
to the point I feel I’m losing all my reason
as I rail against the waste of life that’s war,
yet I’m filled with pride, respect and admiration
for the bravery of Joe and all his chums,
and there surely won’t be any hesitation
when he rides between those mist enshrouded gums.
    I will turn in jubilation
    to the barking consternation
    crying, “Peace my boy—at last, at last he comes!”

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