© Max Merckenschlager

Winner, 2019 Gulgong Henry Lawson Award, Gulgong NSW.

I am product of my country, part-Indigenous, part-grown
from the seeds of other nations that have made her soils their own
part-transplanted and re-labelled with “Australian Product” seal;
my roots were teased and potted on, then bedded-in to heal.

I’m the progeny of felons sent to rid The Crown of muck,
I’m descended from a Chinaman who panned to try his luck,
I have missionary ancestors who taught me Christian shame
and replaced my Spirit Knowledge, like they swapped my tribal name.

I have cleared the land of mallee, now I crop those ancient plains
and I locked the mighty Murray up for paddle-steamer gains
and I introduced the rabbit, then the cactus and the toad;
all my sins must now be answered, so I’m here to bear the load.

I have waxed my board on Bondi and I’ve learned to surf the net
mate, I’ll leave my meter running if we stop to place your bet.
I’m the first to cry “You beauty!” when a pom is given out
but I’ll call the pom ‘my cobber’ if he stands me for a shout.

I have watched the bleeding sunset as a day begins to die
and then counted opals winking in a midden-charcoal sky,
heard a thousand parrots screeching as they shredded outback husk,
waved at flies — but not one human on my route from dawn till dusk!

I was raised on rusks of Arnott, smeared “a rose on every cheek”,
conquered rounds of rye and metwurst, bowls of bamboo shoots and leek
and in backyards of suburbia and northern creekbeds played;
every credo, cult and colour — and we’re ALL Australia-made.

I’m a friend to boss and worker when we meet before a game
and I’ll give and take some ribbing, if our teams are not the same.
I am forceful with suggestions when the umpire gets it wrong,
though my voice goes thin and shaky if Matilda’s raised in song.

I’m the legendary Clancy, I’m the battler from the scrub,
I’m the checkout chick from Malvern and the punter in the pub.
I am Syrian and Sudanese — ten thousand freedom flames
I am Muslim, Christian, Atheist — a smorgasbord of names.

Once I visited the Pyramids and journeyed down the Nile,
like my grandfathers in khaki, riding camel-top in style
and I’ll keep my options open for another global roam,
taking comfort in the certainty I’ll end up coming home.

I number few, but calling that a weakness would be wrong;
like a plaited leather stockwhip, in a showdown I am strong
and when rivers run to bankers, or when drought takes every blade,
watch me digging in and grinning —we Australians HAVE IT MADE!

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