Kelly’s Corner

© Heather Knight

Winner, 2019 Ipswich Poetry Feast ‘Open Age Poetry’, Ipswich Queensland.

Churches dominate the hilltops
giving guidance to the meek,
in a town replete with shanty bars and inns.
Solid walls of brooding bluestone
stand defiant on the peak,
sternly warning of the consequence of sins.

Groaning wagons, creak and rumble,
lurching slowly down the road,
chased by dogs that bark incessantly at wheels.
Oaths are uttered, loud and gruffly;
bullocks fight against their load,
greenhide leather cracking loudly at their heels.

Pounding hooves and creaking leather;
cornet cutting frosty air;
cries of, “Whoa there! Whoa now! Steady as you go.”
Mothers shout and children scatter;
men and women turn to stare 
at the celebrated “whip” of Cobb and Co.

Smeaton looks up from his anvil,
concentration in his frown; 
tools are thrown aside as trotting hooves approach.
Johnny Butler hears the ruckus
at the other end of town
and he dashes off to meet the crimson coach.

There’s an air of expectation
outside Matthew Kelly’s inn
as the much awaited coach arrives in town.
Women search for friendly faces,
calling names above the din;
Hughie Mitchell throws the reins and clambers down.

Ostlers deftly change the horses;
Hughie Mitchell greets his mates,
while the passengers are plied with food and ale.
With a fresh team fully harnessed
Hughie yells – “The road awaits,”
and the silent crowd begin to read their mail.

There’s a rush to finish letters;
stragglers amble from the inn;
Matthew Kelly helps the ladies to their seat.
Mail and passengers are loaded,
(one a little worse for gin)
and the gathered crowd disperses from the street.

Hughie climbs aboard the box seat
and he rings the final bell,
then he turns the horses heads for Sydney town.
With a jolt the wheels are turning;
Matthew Kelly waves farewell;
Hughie cracks the whip and pulls his collar down.

Shadows darken on the hilltops;
horses shuffle outside Quinns;
Mrs Kelly seeks the comfort of her shawl.
Lazy smoke licks mossy rooftops;
lamps illuminate the inns
and the sinners serve their time behind the wall.

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