Another Good Mate Gone

© 2015, Helen Harvey

Winner, 2015 Bronze Spur Award for Written Bush Poetry, Camooweal, Queensland.

A silver mist is rising from the banks along the creek;
    the wattle blossoms glisten like gold baubles, wet and sleek,
while gum leaves droop like teardrops from each Eucalyptus tree
    a Heron breaks the silence with its call, so eerily.
The muted sunlight struggles through a slowly shifting veil,
    to fall upon the figure of an old man, slow and frail,
who wanders without purpose on this breathless Winter day,
      now lost within the silence and the angst he feels today.

The man has felt the barbs of pain so many times before,
    so often has such sorrow called upon his humble door.
Fine lines etched in his weathered face tell stories of their own,
    and each one marks a loved one passed or good mate he had known.
He searches, not for solace in a spirit or a god,
    for any faith had withered on the hard road that he trod,
but feels the losses harder, as he ages, to go on,
    for time will heed not man nor beast.  Another good mate gone.

The dampened earth beneath his tread stirs visions from the past,
    as dewy banks are blended with dark shadows gum trees cast.
His loved ones, long departed, seem so close to him today,
    as if their spirits chose this place, now cloaked in misty grey.
Their closeness brings him comfort as another joins their fold;
    one more good friend has bid farewell;  the world seems now, more cold.
The void he feels is hard to bear, with fewer friendships left,
    yet, gives him reason to endure – not yield to his bereft.

His youthful days saw lonely times on outback station run,
    when handshakes were a solemn oath and men’s respect, hard won.
He’s cheated death more times than he would care to think about,
    but sometimes mused why he was spared while others time ran out.
The life he lived has moulded him to what he is today –
    places he’s been – past times he’s seen – from draught horse in the dray;
from broadaxe, adze, gaunt bullockies – the teams they drove upon
    the rough scrub tracks through Cypress Pine. Those mates – those days – all gone.
His calloused hands bear testament to life in past domains;
    the cattle camps – the endless miles – the bare and wind-swept plains;
The floods that followed ten year droughts – the fires that razed the land,
    to leave behind black silhouettes that was a gum tree stand.
The shearing runs he followed, guided by the evening star,
    prompt memories of older mates and scent of wool and tar;
their faces flit through foggy haze where shadows still remain,
    but like the years behind him now, their images soon wane.

He feels his life has few regrets but if he lived again,
    good time would not be wasted on the weak or lesser men
but lavished on close family – his strength throughout the years;
    such thoughts just make it harder as this painful parting nears.
The silver mist has risen from the banks along the creek;
    gold wattle blossoms glisten in pure light the shadows seek;
the church bell tolls – the time has come – he knows he must move on;
    another farewell he must make.  Another good mate gone.

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