© David Campbell
Winner, 2017 ABPA National and WA State Championships Serious Section, Toodyay, Western Australia.
Come and walk by my side to the river, my love,
where the Sweetwater runs wild and free
through the Sugarloaf Hills, with the blue sky above,
as it tumbles its way to the sea.
We will rest in the vale where the homestead still stands,
just the same as it was years ago,
when we built it to last with our own willing hands,
and then watched our young family grow.
There’s the track that we cut through the eucalypt scrub,
and the place where we sank our first well,
and the shed that was home to the old washing tub,
that would flood when the winter rains fell.
Take my arm as we stroll through the slow-turning years
and the land yields its bountiful fare,
as we fight against hardship and overcome fears
in this life we have chosen to share.
In the distance the mountains are capped with fresh snow,
like a flame in the first morning light,
as the heat steals the mist from the valley below
and we say our farewell to the night.
If you look you can see wedge-tailed eagles up high
on a thermal while searching for prey,
and from somewhere quite near the harsh sparrowhawk’s cry
is a greeting that hails the new day.
Now the fields are abundant with ripe heads of corn,
golden pastures ablaze in the sun,
while the boards are alive with the sheep being shorn,
and the swift, flashing blade of the gun.
Can you smell the sharp tang of the wool and the sweat?
Can you see the dark blood on the floor?
Can you hear the new roustabout’s coarse epithet
as he throws one more fleece, rough and raw?
On the hillside above, our young Bonnie’s astride
the Arabian mare that we bought —
you remember, the chestnut, and your joy and pride
at how well she absorbed all you taught.
And there’s Tom, just a lad, a wide grin on his face,
so triumphant at catching a fish,
a big Redfin, I think — no, I’m wrong, it’s a brace —
they will make such a succulent dish!
We will smoke them, my love, for the evening meal,
and I’ll never forget that rich taste —
but have you? Tell me, dear, are you able to feel
any sense of the life we embraced?
When I sit by your bed it seems time’s standing still,
for each minute can seem like a day,
while your eyes remain dark, and perhaps always will,
at least that’s what the doctors all say.
As the months drift on by and there’s simply no sign
that your traumatised mind will revive,
the machines guard your life, they’re the sounds that define
what it means to be barely alive.
And the questions that haunt me, that I can’t avoid,
are related to matters of choice,
for I know that recalling the life we enjoyed
is a dream in which you have no voice.
You’d have hated the thought of this hospital bed,
and a helplessness far beyond pain.
“Please don’t leave me like that!” is what you would have said —
but is what I now do inhumane?
For it seems I must choose to say one last farewell,
and not linger on here by your side.
Though I’ve clung to some hope you’ll escape from this hell,
perhaps nature is still the best guide.
Please forgive me, my dear, for the path that I take,
the decision just tears me apart,
but although there are different journeys we make,
you will always live on in my heart.
I will take you back home to the Sweetwater’s banks,
to the heaven where you’d want to be,
and I’ll murmur a prayer as I offer up thanks
for the love you have given to me.
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