The 9th of June

© Glenny Palmer, 2013

Winner, 2016 ABPA NSW State Championship, Serious Section, Binalong NSW.

“It’s crazy – unbelievable – they surely have it wrong.
Not you! Why, you’re invincible – my man – my rock – you’re strong.
There’s nothing ever daunted you – no! – this just can’t be true.
How will I face a life without your caring; without you?”

Come, gather up your courage Sweetheart – sip this cup of tea.
I’ve made it how you like it; it will settle you – you’ll see.
Don’t pound your fists upon my chest – here, place your hands in mine.
That’s better – sit beside me now – we’ll work through this just fine.

It might as well be me as anybody else’s dread;
a young bloke with a family and all his life ahead,
or some poor single mother with her children left behind.
I’m happy with the life I’ve lived. I honestly don’t mind.’’

Ah yes, we worked our way through it alright, and it was hell
to watch you clawing for a breath, not knowing when the bell
was set to sound its final chime and free you from this curse,
and knowing that your blind determination made it worse…

…for you. To bells and chiming times, no quarter would you give,
To hell with deadlines! I’ll take charge of just how long I’ll live.’’
I smiled in acquiescence for you’d told the stars and moon,
and me, and land and sea, that it would bethe 9th of June.

The 9th of June – not one day prior – for you’d insured your life;
that day when men in suits would sign the cheque, to see your wife
provided for, as you had done, would ever do, and yet
a harsh, extended suffering you’d shoulder as your debt.

They told me on the 9th of April, ‘Listen for the bell.’
I lingered by your bedside in the searing fires of Hell;
for three long days and nights I listened, sobbing in despair
and wondered if you heard my pleas – or knew that I was there.

And then I spoke to you of mundane things, of daily life;
how Ann had called to visit – how young Tim was back in strife.
I spoke of how the weather looked like maybe we’d get rain,
and how the Government had made a mess of things again.

I spoke of how the house was going. Steve had been along
to fit the windows, paint the doors, and how it won’t be long
before I’d have you home again tucked up in your old chair,
if only for an hour or so; such precious time to share.

But then I spoke of bravery – of how I’d never seen
another with such character as strong as yours had been.
I spoke my love and gratitude; your love of Brigadoon,
when suddenly – you smiled at me – and whispered, “9th of June.”

Oh, the doctors were astounded; (it was small surprise to me.)
I knew you far too well; relief? oh yes, most certainly,
but then your candid character emerged, ‘I want a stew;
the bonza one me missus cooks… and make a man a brew!’

The nurses rolled their eyes and shook their heads in disbelief.
I did likewise, then scurried home to slice up stewing beef.
And so for ten more days I cooked, and prayed, and cooked, and cried,
and treasured every intimacy shared, while by your side.

As April plodded vainly on, you courted only June.
You fought so hard to cling to life; to not leave me too soon,
but plans and dreams of men and mice so often go awry
while angels on their mission grant such scant time for ‘goodbye.’

I dreamed I saw them John; I saw them lift you to the sky
and you were fit and free again. It’s for myself I cry.
And now I fancy I still feel your hand, so firm in mine
for Fancy is the friend that fosters memories’ design.

And what a clutch of memories you left me. How I laugh
at how you never did a solitary thing by half;
at all the times I threw your boots and you out through the door;
at how you always broke back in, outraged, but poised for more.

There’ll never be another, John, they broke the mould for you;
the tough and candid bushman who did all he said he’d do.
And sometimes, in my fancy now, when gazing at the moon
I see you raising hell in Heaven – on the 9th of June.

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