My Name’s Doreen

© Shelley Hansen

Winner, 2017 Open Award & Marian Mayne Trophy, CJ Dennis Poetry Competition, Toolangi, Victoria.

“What-o!” he said.  “It’s been a bonzer day.”
And then he said, “How is it for a walk?”
How dare he try to chat me up that way!
That kind of talk
is for another sort of girl – not me –
and so I tossed my head to let him see.

My name’s Doreen.  I was a working girl
back then, and I remember how I cried
the day my life unravelled in a whirl
when father died
and left us debts.  So all my hopes and plans
dissolved in never-ending rows of cans.

My father always said, “Girl, you’re no fool.”
And so I studied hard, and had a dream
that I’d become a teacher in a school –
but all the cream
was taken from that cake – it turned to ash
while working in a cannery for cash.

The larrikins would whistle us and stare
or try to sidle up and steal a kiss;
so when I saw him often standing there
I thought that this
was just another bloke who thought a flirt
was his just for the asking – and it hurt.

I knew his type.  I’d heard the talk of fights
down Little Lonsdale Street, with broken bricks.
They gathered there on lamplit weekend nights
with fists and kicks
to settle, in the age-old way of men,
imagined scores – beyond a woman’s ken.

I thought he’d go away and not return
or chase some other girl who’d play his game.
But his intentions, I was soon to learn,
were not the same
as others of his kind – when, in a while
he got us introduced in proper style.

We sat down by the beach.  Bill held my hand
and talked.  I hardly knew just what to think.
He said the moonlight in my eyes was grand!
It turned me pink
with blushes – then he made a solemn vow,
“I’ll chuck the fighting clean,” he said, “right now!”

I said I wished he meant it, but I knew
he meant it fair and square, there on that beach;
and though he’d lapse at times, still it was true.
His “little peach”
he called me, but the cold hard light of day
soon brought me close to throwing it away.

I knew a bloke who wore a cute straw hat –
he gave me pretty flowers once or twice.
My thoughts for him were tuppence – less than that –
but it was nice
to have a treat.  Yet it was plain to see
he loved his own reflection more than me.

That’s when I found how much Bill really cared.
We had a row that nearly broke my heart,
and then I knew our love could not be shared.
It was the start –
a turning point, for better or for worse,
a brand new page, a chapter, and a verse.

Folks often ask me what I see in him –
a man of humble past, who talks quite rough.
They think my future prospects might be grim,
but it’s enough
for me to see the love-light in his eyes –
the poetry that he cannot disguise.

“In sickness and in health” – we’re side by side.
Our wedding day – with lifelong vows to take.
He looks at me with mingled hope and pride
as if I’ll break –
and though I sweetly smile and play along,
he doesn’t know I’ve never felt so strong!

The years – what will they bring?  We cannot tell.
The world may share our joy or bring us pain
that must be faced – and yet I know full well
I won’t complain
if all my days I’m blessed to share the yoke
of life with Bill – my Sentimental Bloke.

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